An Introduction to ChexSystems

If you’ve ever been denied an application for a checking or savings account due to your banking history, it’s probably the direct result of ChexSystems. But what is ChexSystems, how does it work, and what does it have to do with your banking history?

Read on for the answer to these questions and many more.

ChexSystems: An Overview

Governed by the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), ChexSystems is the “credit bureau” for financial institutions. They operate in the same manner as the credit reporting agencies, like Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

But instead of providing credit data, they offer consumer disclosure reports that include historical data for closed checking and savings accounts. These reports help financial institutions determine if the applicant meets the qualification standards for a new bank account or if they should be denied due to the high level of risk they pose.

What’s In Your ChexSystems Report?

ChexSystems or FACTA reports contain the following components:

  • Consumer identification number
  • Personal information
  • Identity theft security alerts reported by the consumer
  • Security freeze history
  • Reported information related to past accounts that were mismanaged or resulted in an outstanding debt balance
  • Inquiries initiated by financial institutions
  • Inquiries initiated by the consumer
  • Check-cashing inquiries
  • Retail information
  • Check-ordering history
  • Social security number validation
  • Additional information or supplementary data

You can view a sample consumer disclosure report here.

How to Retrieve Your Free ChexSystems Report

You can access your consumer report on an annual basis, free of charge, by following the instructions below:

  • Phone- Call 800-428-9623. You will be directed to an automated voice messaging system where you can initiate your request.
  • Mail- Download and print the Consumer Request for Disclosure Form and send it to Chex Systems, Inc.

Attn: Consumer Relations

7805 Hudson Road, Suite 100

Woodbury, MN 55125

  • Fax- Submit the Consumer Request for Disclosure Form to 602-659-2197.
  • Online- Complete and submit the Consumer Request for Disclosure found here.

Free ChexSystems reports are also available to consumers who’ve been denied for a bank account due to the information contained in the report.

Can Anyone Access Your ChexSystems Report?

The short answer is no. in order for a third party to access your FACTA report, they must:

  • Have written permission by you to do so. This is usually the case when you apply for a bank account and you sign an application granting the bank permission to access resources, like ChexSystems, to help evaluate your application and make a decision. Both business and personal transactions also fall under this umbrella.
  • Be ordered to do so by the courts through an order or federal subpoena issued by the grand jury. Child support rulings by the court of law may also warrant the release of your ChexSystems report.

What to Do If Your ChexSystems Report Contains Errors

If your ChexSystems report contains inaccuracies, you have the right to have them rectified. But in order to initiate the process, you’ll have to file a formal dispute. This can be done via the following methods:

  • Online by completing the digital form and uploading supporting documents
  • By mail at Chex Systems, Inc., Attn: Consumer Relations, 7805 Hudson Road, Suite 100, Woodbury, MN 55125
  • By fax at 602-659-2197

Should you decide to dispute your consumer report by mail or fax, be sure to include your full name, Social Security number, current and mailing address, and Consumer ID on all correspondence you send it. Your dispute letter should also clearly identify the item(s) in question and the reason it’s incorrect.

How to Contact ChexSystems

If you need more clarification about your ChexSystems report or the dispute process, you reach out via mail, fax, or phone. Their contact information is listed below:

Mail

ChexSystems, Inc.

Attn: Consumer Relations

7805 Hudson Road, Suite 100

Woodbury, MN 55125

*Phone

800-428-9623

Fax

602-659-2197

*(Please note that calling in will only route you to an automated menu that allows you to request your report or listen to responses to frequently asked questions. No representatives are available at the number to take your call).

ChexSystems: What It Means For Your Banking Options

Unfortunately, a shaky ChexSystems reports could spell big trouble when you apply for a checking or savings account. You could either be offered an account with less than favorable perks, like higher maintenance fees or minimum balance requirements or be denied for an account altogether.

Do All Banks Use ChexSystems Reports?

Before you have a complete meltdown, you should know that you aren’t banned from the banking world forever if you have less than perfect banking history. In fact, information reported only lingers for five or so years. Even better, some banks ditch ChexSystems altogether while others offer second-chance bank accounts. More on that shortly.

What To Do If You’re Denied for a Bank Account

Alternative Banking Solutions (or Non-ChexSystems Banks)

Worried that you won’t find a bank account that suits your needs because you’ve been denied on every turn? Take a look at what the non-ChexSystems banks have to offer:

  • BBVA Compass ClearConnect Free Checking
  • Navy Federal Credit Union
  • Suntrust Bank
  • United Bank

Quick note: while select banks don’t use ChexSystems to screen applicants, it’s possible that they run credit checks or use another similar service called Early Warning Systems during the evaluation process. So, it’s best to inquire with a banker before moving forward with your application.

Second-Chance Banking

You may also want to give banks that offer consumers another chance a try. These include:

  • BBVA Compass ClearChoice Free Checking
  • Capital One
  • USAA Free Checking
  • Wells Fargo

As mentioned earlier, you may have to pay higher maintenance fees or fork over more than normal for your opening deposit, but the benefits of second-chance banking usually outweigh the costs.

You should also know that these options may not be advertised to the public. Instead, you’ll need to go into the branch and speak with a banker about your situation. That way, they’ll be able to provide you with your options based on your banking history.

Prepaid Debit Cards

It’s not uncommon for consumers to want a bank account solely for the purpose of direct deposit or online transactions that require you to use a debit card. The good news is even if you’re unable to find a bank account that works for you due to ChexSystems issues, you can always use a prepaid debit card to get the job done.

While they are sometimes accompanied by higher fees and pose a bit more risk than traditional debit cards issued by banks, they have similar capabilities. And some prepaid debit card issuers allow you to personalize your card and receive direct deposits.

Can You Remove Accurate Negative Data From ChexSystems?

Are you being haunted by a slew of banking missteps from the past? Whether they resulted from a rough financial patch, carelessness, or honest oversight, it’s possible to have negative data removed from your ChexSystems report.

However, it’s not necessarily a good idea to reach out to ChexSystems and demand that they remove any negative information from your report. Instead, call up the bank and request that they remove the account in exchange for payment. If they agree, request that they provide their response to you in writing so you’ll have proof of the arrangement.

But if this approach doesn’t quite work out and the negative entries are older, you can try your hand at a dispute to see if the bank responds. Depending on the severity of the issue and age of the account, they may not bother and the information will be removed from your report.

The Bottom Line

It’s a good idea to be aware of how ChexSystems works and what’s listed in your FACTA report. That way, you’ll know what to expect when applying for bank accounts. And should you spot errors in your report in the future, you’ll know exactly what to do to have them resolved in a timely manner.

An Introduction to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

Are debt collectors wearing you down with the constant letters, calls, and texts? If their actions are borderline intrusive, it may be possible that they’re violating your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).

But what is the FDCPA, how does it work, and how does it protect you when dealing with debt collectors? Keep reading to learn the answer to these questions and much more.

What is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act?

Enacted by the federal government in 1978, the FDCPA regulates how debt collectors interact with consumers to collect on delinquent debts.

The rules set forth in the FDCPA are only applicable to personal unsecured and secured debts. These include personal loans, credit cards, mortgages, auto loans, and student loans. However, consumer protections do not extend to business debts.

Under the FDCPA, debt collectors are also given the ability to use legal channels to recoup the funds owed by debtors. And some instances, they may file a lawsuit to collect what they owe, obtain a judgment, or get a court order to garnish your wages from your paycheck. (Please note that federal benefits typically aren’t eligible for wage garnishments that are related to consumer debts).

What Are Your Rights Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act?

As a debtor, you are afforded many rights under the FDCPA when dealing with collection agencies. For starters, you have the right to receive a written verification of any debt you allegedly owe from the debt collector before you commence payment.

The debt collector must also send you a written notice that details key information about the debt, including the creditor’s name, the amount you owe, and instructions on how to move forward if the debt doesn’t belong to you. This should be done within five days of initial contact.

If you decide to start making payments towards the debt, you have the right to choose how those funds will be allocated. This is applicable in those situations where the debt collector is pursuing payment for more than one account.

And if you’re overwhelmed by debt and are seeking legal counsel or considering bankruptcy, you have the right to draft up a Cease and Desist Letter to halt all contact from the debt collection agency. You should send this document using certified mail and purchase a return receipt to ensure they receive it. At that point, the only further contact they can make is to notify you of their next intended course of action.

What Are Debt Collectors Prohibited From Doing Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act?

Debt collectors can’t just get fed up with you and call demanding that you pay up. They have to be respectful with their approach and refrain from threatening, harassing, or swearing at you. There are also some other actions that are prohibited from taking when attempting to collect a debt, including:

  • Attempting to collect on a debt without sending a validation notice in writing within five days of initiating contact with you.
  • Refusing to respond to your debt validation request but moving forward with collection efforts.
  • Demanding that you pay more than you actually owe. Some collection agencies tack on miscellaneous fees and penalties to the outstanding balance, but doing so is illegal under the FDCPA.
  • Contacting you before 8 am or after 9 pm. If they call you in the wee hours of the morning or late at night, they are in direct violation of the FDCPA.
  • Calling you on your job if calls from debt collectors are prohibited. That’s unless you give them permission to do so, and they must still only call within the allotted window of time as allowed by the federal law.
  • Sharing details about your debt with others, with the exception of your spouse or parents if you are a minor.
  • Using deceptive tactics, profanity or threatening you on the phone.
  • Ignoring Cease and Desist Letters that demand all contact be stopped right away. If they continue to call, send text messages, or email you, they are violating your rights. (As noted earlier, they can contact you one more time after receiving the letter to let you know what they plan to do next).
  • Reporting incorrect information regarding the debt to the credit bureaus. Debt collectors are required to report accurately and timely information.

How Do You Report Debt Collectors That Violate Your Rights?

Despite the potential negative consequences that collection agencies can face for violating the FDCPA, some are willing to test their luck.

You can use the following channels to report debt collectors that violate your rights:

  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
  • The Federal Trade Commission
  • The State Attorney General’s office (in your state of residence)
  • The court of law (by filing a lawsuit)

Debt collection agencies found to be in violation of the FDCPA can face monetary fines. And should you decide to file a lawsuit in federal court and the judge rules in your favor, you could receive damages if the suit is filed within a one-year window of the original violation. But if you’re unable to prove that you incurred damages as a result of the violation, you could receive up to $1,000 in additional funds to reimburse you for applicable court cost and attorney fees.

The Bottom Line

By understanding the FDCPA, you’ll be better suited to deal with debt collectors and understand when your rights have been violated. But if you are uncertain, it doesn’t hurt to seek legal assistance to gain the clarity you need.

How to Deal with Collection Agencies

Are you worn down by the constant letters and calls from collection agencies? Maybe you’re drowning in debt, strapped for cash, and don’t which way to turn for help. Regardless of your situation, there are ways to find relief from those pesky debt collectors.

But it’s important to understand what types of collection agencies exist, their role in the debt collection process, and your rights when dealing with them.

The Role of Collection Agencies

In a nutshell, collection agencies are entities that work on behalf of creditors to collect amounts owed on delinquent accounts. There are two types of collection agencies to be aware of.

In-House Collection Departments

Before an account is turned over to a third-party debt collector, most companies will attempt to collect what is owed through their in-house collection department. Doing so gives them a better chance of recouping most or all of the outstanding balance. Furthermore, they won’t take a substantial loss by writing off the debt and selling it to an outside agency since they’ll only get pennies on the dollar.

In-house collection departments may be willing to negotiate a settlement agreement, but the chances are highly unlikely. Instead, you’ll usually find that they’re open to working out some sort of payment arrangement to help you pay back what you owe over time without spreading yourself too thin. They may also agree to refrain from reporting additional late payments on your credit report so you can preserve your credit rating.

Outside or Third-Party Debt Collection Agencies

If the account sits on the books for too long in an unpaid status, usually between 90 and 180 days, the company will write it off and sell to a third-party debt collection agency. At this point, the debt collector will reach out in writing with a notice that indicates you have 30 days to respond regarding the validity of the debt. If you don’t, it will be reported to the credit bureaus as a collection item and the collection texts, calls, and letters demanding payment will commence.

They may be willing to work with you to get the debt handled, but paying it in full won’t necessarily improve your credit score. In fact, the debt will still linger for seven years from the initial date the delinquency was reported, but they will update the account status to settled or paid in full. However, you may be able to negotiate a pay-for-deletion to make them remove the negative entry from your credit report and go away.

But if you ignore them altogether, they may sue you in the court of law to collect the amount owed. This could result in a judgment and more severe consequences, like wage garnishments.

What Do Debt Collection Agencies Do?

Ultimately, their goal is to get you to pay up, even if it’s for a portion of what you owe. But they can’t just go about collecting on the debt in any manner that they please. Instead, they must follow the rules outlined in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) or they could face harsh consequences.

Your Rights Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

According to the Federal Trade Commission, it’s “illegal for debt collectors to use abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices when they collect debts.” And if they do so, the debt collector will be in direct violation of your rights under the FDCPA.

Below is a summary of your rights under the FDCPA:

  • Debt collectors cannot call you before 8 am or after 9 pm. However, they can reach out if you agree to be contacted outside of these hours.
  • Debt collectors cannot call you at your place of employment if you notify them that these types of calls are not permissible or that you do not wish to be contacted there.
  • Debt collectors cannot divulge the details of the debt to anyone outside of your spouse or parents (if you’re a minor).
  • Debt collectors are obligated to mail you a written validation notice detailing the applicable balance, creditor’s information, and how to handle the debt if it doesn’t belong to you. They have five days from the initial date of contact to do so or they are in violation of the law.
  • Debt collectors cannot use language that is abusive, make false threats, or harass you regarding the debt.
  • Debt collectors must stop contacting you if you send a letter requesting that they do so. It’s called a Cease and Desist Letter should be sent via certified mail with a return receipt so you’ll know when it’s in their possession. Upon receipt of the letter, the debt collection agency is permitted to reach out one more time notifying you of their next course of action. (Quick note: by sending out a Cease and Desist Letter, you may be putting yourself at an increased risk for a lawsuit since the debt collector will no longer be able to communicate directly with you to find a resolution).

Are Business Debts Covered Under the FDCPA

Unfortunately, business debts are not covered under the FDCPA. The rules only apply to revolving and installment personal debts, including credit cards, personal loans, auto loans, home loans, student loans, and mortgage loans.

What To Do If Your Rights Are Violated

If you feel as if a debt collection agency has violated your rights under the FDCPA, you can reach out to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or the Attorney General’s office in your state of residence. You can also file a formal complaint online using the tool offered by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

You also have the option to file a lawsuit. And if you win, you could be awarded damages or fines of up to $1,000 in addition to any legal fees incurred. The latter includes court costs and expenses associated with hiring an attorney.

But keep in mind that even if one of these agencies rule in your favor, you’re still on the hook for the debt.

Debt Collection Scams

Not all collection agencies are created equal. In fact, some are scam artists looking to prey on consumers that are already in dire financial straits.

The first sign of a scam artist is one that is calling about a debt you have no knowledge of and are certain that you don’t owe or doesn’t exist. Other signs to be on the lookout for, per the FTC, are companies that do not have a mailing address or phone or request information that is highly sensitive. They may also be a scam artist if they threaten to turn you over to the local authorities.

If you’ve been contacted or have fallen victim to debt collection a scam, report the incident to the FTC right away. You should also call your state Attorney General’s office and request assistance regarding what your next course of action should be.

Best Practices When Dealing with Collection Agencies

Validate the debt first.

There’s no way to know if the debt collection agency is legally able to collect on the debt without validating it first. By sending a letter to the credit bureaus disputing the accuracy of the debt or communicating that you have no knowledge of it, you’ll force the debt collector to provide documentation showing that you actually owe and that they can legally collect on it. If they’re unable to do so, the collection efforts stop right there.

But if you recently received a written validation notice and still in the 30-day window, all collection activities must come to a halt until the debt collector sends over proof that you owe. This could be in the form of a bill from the creditor or a copy of the original contract.

Ask the collection agency to only communicate in writing.

Debt collection agencies can make one deal on the phone and act as if they have no idea what you’re referring to when it comes up later on down the line. That’s why it’s best to only communicate with debt collectors in writing.

Record all telephone correspondence.

If they do insist on calling, don’t answer right away. Instead, allow them to leave a message and only return the call once you’re able to record it via a handheld recorder or your mobile device. During the call, reiterate that you’d like to receive written correspondence. And if you reside in a state that requires you to disclose that conversation is being recorded, be sure to let them know.

Take detailed notes from phone conversations.

Request the name of the representative that you are speaking to and not the date and time. And simply listen to what they are saying. Refrain from divulging any information or it can be used against you later on in the court of law. As mentioned earlier, remind them that you’d prefer that they stop calling and forward all further communication to you in writing.

How to Remove Collection Accounts From Your Credit Report

Looking to remove collection accounts from your credit report? Follow the detailed instructions in our handy guide found right over here. (insert hyperlink to other article) Another option is to hire a reputable credit repair company to do the legwork for you.

The Bottom Line

By knowing how to deal with collection agencies, you’ll be able to alleviate the stress that comes with the letters, calls, and texts demanding payment. And if all else fails, you can always send a Cease and Desist Letter and hire an attorney to take it from there.

How to Handle Medical Debt

One minute you’re healthy and the next minute you’re burdened with medical bills. It happens more often than you may think, and it doesn’t take a debilitating illness to get to this point. In fact, if you head to the emergency room and they take a slew of labs or require an overnight stay to diagnose your issue, you could easily rack up thousands in medical bills. And if you’re uninsured, that only adds to the bill.

The good news is there are several ways to handle medical debt without emptying your bank account or pulling your hair out. Keep reading to learn more.

Review your bill in its entirety.

Before you give the medical provider a dime towards the bill, review it from top to bottom. Confirm that the line items accurately reflect the treatment you received and that there aren’t any inconsistencies if pricing. If you spot issues, notify the billing office right away to have them resolved.

Compare your bill to the explanation of benefits.

Assuming you’re insured, the next step is to compare your bill to the explanation of benefits sent out by your insurance company. (Didn’t have insurance coverage at the time of the visit? You can skip this step).

If you haven’t yet received this document, reach out and request that it be sent promptly. You may also be able to login to your insurance provider’s online portal and view an electronic copy there.

When comparing the two, you want to make sure that the insurance company took care of the portion of the expenses that they were supposed to, as outlined in your policy. It’s not unusual for billing and coding errors to happen, so you may find that the insurance company only covered 70 percent of a service when they were supposed to cover 80 percent. Or maybe they assessed the full amount for a particular procedure when it was supposed to be covered at 100 percent because it was coded incorrectly by the medical provider’s billing office.

Either way, it won’t take a ton of effort to reach out to both the insurance company and medical provider to have the bill updated so it can be processed correctly. And you’ll often find that by taking just a few minutes of your time, you can save hundreds if not thousands in medical costs.

Request a payment plan.

Medical providers are aware that most consumers don’t have thousands of dollars lying around waiting to be spent on healthcare expenses. For this reason, they offer payment plans designed to fit every budget.

Oftentimes, they are not accompanied by interest and allow you to make a monthly payment that is comfortable and doesn’t stretch finances to thin. Another added benefit of payment plans is the ability to protect your credit rating and avoid debt collectors as the medical provider will know you’re committed to doing your part to handle your outstanding debt.

But you have to be willing to call in and set up a payment plan to get the ball rolling. And when you do so, be sure to only commit to an amount you can afford to pay each month or you run the risk of the account being turned over to collections.

Negotiate a discounted settlement.

Have you tried calling the medical provider’s billing office to inquire about discounts or settlement options? You may be able to have your medical debt balance steeply reduced or off the strength of a financial hardship. This is also common if you were uninsured at the time services were rendered.

And in more extreme cases, you may qualify to have the debt written-off completely if you’re in dire financial straits. But you may have to provide financial documentation and meet with an in-house representative to review your situation and determine if this option is available to you.

Explore financial hardship programs.

Still no luck? You can also try exploring federal or nonprofit programs and organizations that may be able to assist. Most of these programs are income-based, and your local health department or hospital may have information on hand to point you in the right direction.

Also, visit Benefits.gov and use their comprehensive search tool to find health and medical assistance programs that you may qualify for. Results can be filtered by state and subcategory.

Hire a medical bill advocate to negotiate on your behalf.

Prefer to let a third-party to the legwork for you? Consider hiring a medical bill advocate to negotiate the balances and work out the details with your medical providers. They will also analyze all of your bills to determine if there are issues with the coding, if you haven’t been assessed the proper rates for services, or if the insurance provider should cover a higher portion of the expenses.

This option is ideal if you’re medical expenses are steep as a result of a serious medical condition or long-term stay in the hospital.

If you’d like to explore this option, you can ask around for recommendations or contact the Medical Billing Advocates of America to learn more. But keep in mind that medical bill advocates typically charge a fee for their services.

Borrow the funds.

As a last resort, you can apply for a personal loan or use a credit card to pay back what you owe. You can also apply for a medical credit card, like CareCredit, to help alleviate the financial burden and stop the collection calls.

But before you go this route, be sure to conduct a cost-benefit analysis to make sure it’s worthwhile. If you’re able to find a loan with a low-interest rate and affordable payments or a credit card that offers an extended zero-interest promotional period, it may not be such a bad idea. However, a higher interest loan or credit card that starts accruing interest right away could land you into a mountain of debt and even more financial trouble.

How to Deal with Medical Debt Collectors

What if the debt is already in collections and none of these options are available to you? There are still ways to resolve your medical debts.

For starters, you should know that the three credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – have to wait at least 180 days before they can place outstanding medical debt on your credit profile. So, this gives you an ample amount of time to work towards reaching a resolution.

But if you’ve already passed this point, here are some additional suggestions:

Dispute the debt.

Collection agencies buy debt for pennies on the dollar, so it’s not uncommon for the balances to get passed from one company to another and documentation sometimes slips through the cracks. This could be good news for you as the burden of proof is on the debt collector to prove that you actually owe the debt should you decide to file a dispute.

So, you can take your chances by filing a formal dispute with each of the credit bureaus. And if the collection agency is unable to provide ample documentation or doesn’t bother to respond because they don’t feel it’s worthwhile, the debt will be removed from your credit report and you’ll be off the hook for the balance. (Quick note: if they decide to sell the debt to someone else, you’ll have to restart the process all over again).

Negotiate a pay-for-deletion agreement.

If the debt collector is able to provide proof that you owe, you can try negotiating a pay for deletion. In essence, you’re requesting that they accept a portion of the balance owed to settle the debt. It also means that they will remove it from your credit report and stop pursuing you.

It may take some time to get the debt collector on board. But when they do bite the bait, be sure to get the agreement in writing and uphold your end of the bargain.

The Bottom Line

Dealing with medical debt can be stressful and downright overwhelming. But by taking the time to address the issue and either working to find a solution or hiring someone to do it for you, you’ll find the relief you’re seeking sooner than later.

Debt Settlement 101: A Comprehensive Guide

Debt settlement entails paying creditors less than you owe to cover your outstanding debts. In exchange, you’ll be off the hook with debt collectors. Even better, they will release you from all liability and won’t be able to file a lawsuit against you in the court of law.

It can offer a peace of mind if you’re buried in debt and can’t seem to find a way out because your finances are in shambles. But it takes some time to legwork to pull it off whether you hire a debt settlement company or take the DIY route. And there are some negative implications you should consider.

Read on to learn more.

Potential Benefits of Debt Settlement

You’ll have peace of mind.

No more ducking and dodging debt collectors or tossing and turning at night worrying about your debt. By settling your debt, you’ll be able to put your dark financial past behind you, move on with your life, and focus on fresh financial goals.

You’ll reduce the financial blow to your wallet.

Assuming your attempt at debt settlement is successful, you’ll save a wad of cash by only paying a portion of what you owe to the creditor. This will free up funds to work on accomplishing other key financial objectives on your list, like building an emergency fund or contributing to your retirement account.

Risk Factors

There’s a 50:50 chance it won’t work out.

Creditors aren’t obligated to accept your debt settlement offer. In fact, they can do the opposite and choose to pursue you in the court of law, especially if they sense that you have the wherewithal to pay.

And there’s also a chance that the creditor is willing to settle, but for an amount that’s too high or doesn’t quite work for you. Either way, you’ll have to deal with damage to your credit profile and find a way to take care of your outstanding debts, plus additional interest, fees, and penalties incurred from withholding payment.

Does Debt Settlement Impact Your Credit Rating?

While debt settlement does negatively impact your credit score, the damage starts far before an agreement is reached (if at all). How so? Well, debt settlement companies advise consumers to cease payments on their outstanding debt obligations during the process and divert the funds to a savings account, instead. When the account reaches a certain amount, they will commence negotiations on your behalf. And if an agreement is reached, the funds from this account will be used to settle the debt.

This is done for a few reasons. For starters, most creditors will only agree to the terms and conditions of a settlement offer if the amount can be paid in full. So if you don’t have the funds available and they say yes, you’ll be out of luck. Furthermore, creditors are less likely to accept a settlement offer if they suspect you’re able to repay what you owe. And by continuing to make monthly payments, you’ll lower your chances of them biting the bait.

The problem is that by forgoing monthly payments in an effort to save up, your credit rating will take a hit once the payment is late by 30 days or more. And depending on how severe the delinquency gets, the account could be written off by the creditor and converted to a collection item.

But what if you reach a settlement before the account is written off as a collection item? The creditor will note that it has been settled for less than the total amount owed and the entry on your credit report will still ding your credit rating.

Other Important Considerations

Costs

When you hire a debt settlement company to negotiate a reduced payoff on your behalf, you may not incur any out of pocket costs right away. On the other hand, they may assess an administrative fee that is withdrawn monthly from the savings account that contains the funds that will be used to pay off the debt.

And when they do reach a settlement that works for both parties, they will usually deduct a percentage of the settlement amount or the total amount eliminated by the settlement.

To illustrate, assume you initially owed $16,000 and the debt settlement company you hired negotiated a settlement for $7,500.

  • If the company charges 20 percent of the settlement amount, you’ll pay $1,500 ($7,500 * 20%) in fees and $7,500 to the creditor.
  • If the company charges 20 percent of the total amount eliminated by the settlement, you’ll pay $1,700 ($8,500 * 20%) in fees and $7,500 to the creditor.

Tax Implications

The creditor may appear to be generous by accepting your offer, but Uncle Sam isn’t always as forgiving. In fact, you may be on the hook for additional income tax with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) because the amount that’s forgiven may be classified as taxable income. If you’re unsure of if you fall into this category, it’s best to solicit guidance from a reputable tax professional.

How to Find a Debt Settlement Company

Are you ready to bring a debt settlement company on board to go to work on your behalf? Don’t settle for the first company you find on the internet. Here are some key factors to look for along with some of the top options in the debt settlement industry.

Evaluating your options

When shopping around for debt settlement companies, you want to consider companies that:

  • Are licensed in your state of residence, which can be confirmed by contacting the Attorney General’s office in your state.
  • Are accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB). An A+ or A rating is also ideal.
  • Are affiliated with professional organizations in the industry.
  • Offer free consultations so you can gauge which companies are best suited to fit your needs.
  • Only assess fees once they’ve negotiated and executed a settlement on your behalf. (Note: some companies charge setup and administrative fees over the course of your time as a client).
  • Have minimal complaints on file with the BBB, State Attorney General, or the consumer protection agency in your local area of residence.

Don’t know where to start? Key industry players, like Freedom Debt Relief and National Debt Relief, can analyze your situation and get you moving in the right direction. You can view our comprehensive list of top debt settlement companies here (insert hyperlink once the article is published).

DIY Debt Settlement

Do you think you have what it takes to settle your own debts without bringing a company on board? It’s worth a shot if your debts are already severely past due, around 90 days or more, and you the funds at your disposal to make a lump-sum payment.

By settling your own debts, you’ll always save money as you won’t be required to pay a fee to a service provider to set up an account or once a settlement is reached.

Ready to get started? Take the following steps:

  • Step 1: Assess your finances to determine if you have the funds on hand to make a lump-sum payment. Oftentimes, the creditor will request that you settle the debt at once at not over time with multiple payments. And if you reach a deal but are unable to follow-through, they may be reluctant to work with you again on reaching a deal.
  • Step 2: Draft up your game plan. While you could just call up the creditor and ask to pay less than what you owe with no specific reasoning, you may find it harder for them to accept your offer. A better idea: compose a pitch that explains your financial hardships and point to the fact that you’ve already missed a few payments. That way, they’ll know that the chances of you paying off the balance in full are slim to none. Also, decide on the starting point of your negotiations. You want to give yourself wiggle room just in case they reject the first few offers. So, if you can comfortably by 60 percent, start at 30 percent and work your way up.
  • Step 3: Contact the creditor once you have the funds in hand and are ready to negotiate a settlement amount. There’s a high possibility that you may not be successful the first or even second time around, but the key is persistence. It may also be necessary to move up the management ladder to get the results you’re looking for.
  • Step 4: Seal the deal. Before you hand over your hard earned cash, be sure to get the final agreement in writing from the creditor. That way, you’ll be covered and can rest assured that the creditor is playing by the rules. But keep in mind that the creditor will also expect you to uphold your end of the deal.

The Bottom Line

Whether you decide to hire a debt settlement company or work out deals with creditors on your own, you may be able to find the relief you’ve been searching for. But before deciding on a course of action, be sure to explore all your options to decide if debt settlement is the best fit for your financial situation.

How to Get Out of ChexSystems

Were you recently denied a checking or savings account at a financial institution? Unless it was a direct result of your credit rating, chances are there’s an issue with your ChexSystems report. But what is ChexSystems, and how do banks use it to make decisions on who gets approved for accounts and who doesn’t? More importantly, is it possible to clean up your act so you can open new bank accounts? The good news is a negative ChexSystems report isn’t a death sentence with regards to qualifying for a new bank account. And in this guide, we’ll answer the questions posed above and walk through a step-by-step process detailing how to get out of ChexSystems.

What Is ChexSystems?

In a nutshell, ChexSystems is the credit bureau of banks. It operates as a specialty consumer reporting agency by compiling negative banking data attributed to specific individuals into a report that can be reviewed by financial institutions to determine how much of a risk he or she poses to the bank.

The information furnishers are the financial institutions that the consumers do business with. And the negative items reported include but are not limited to bounced checks, recurring overdraft fees, and involuntary account closures that are the direct result of a long-standing negative balance or excessive fees.

ChexSystems Reports

As mentioned earlier, all the data gathered from financial institutions can be found on your ChexSystems Report. And if you’ve been turned away for checking or savings account, it’s not a bad idea to request your report sooner than later to determine the cause for the denial. But even if you haven’t been turned away but are planning to apply for an account in the near future and are interested in what information is in your report, you should also peruse your report to ensure it’s accurate and free of errors.

To retrieve a free copy of your report:

  • Visit ChexSystems.com and complete the online Consumer Disclosure questionnaire.
  • Call 1-800-428-9623 to request a copy or have any questions you may have about ChexSystems reports answered by phone.

Either option should only take a few minutes, and you can expect to receive a hard copy of your ChexSystems Consumer Disclosure report by mail in five business days or less.

Another way to get a free copy of your report is if you’re denied for a bank account on the grounds of what’s in your Consumer Disclosure report.

A Four-Step Process to Get Out of ChexSystems

Are you ready to roll up your sleeves and do what it takes to get out of ChexSystems? Below is a fairly-straightforward four-step process to get you moving in the right direction.

Dealing with Errors

  • Step 1: Analyze your Consumer Disclosure Report again and highlight or circle any incorrect information that catches your attention. It doesn’t hurt to give the report a few looks to confirm you didn’t miss anything.
  • Step 2: Highlight or circle any items listed on your report that should not be presented because they’ve surpassed the five-year reporting timeline.
  • Step 3: Retrieve a “Request for Investigation” form from the ChexSystems website. Print it out and complete it in its entirety.
  • Step 4: Gather any documentation that will help you substantiate your claim.
  • Step 5: Submit the “Request for Investigation”, along with the supporting documents gathered in step four via mail or fax.

If you choose to mail in your dispute package, be sure to send it via certified mail with a return receipt so you can confirm when it is received. From that point, you must receive a written response within 30-days or the item(s) in question must be removed from your ChexSystems’ Consumer Disclosure Report.

Dealing with Negative, But Accurate Information

Has a string of past financial missteps landed you in ChexSystems, leaving you with a tarnished report? Even if you’ve turned a new leaf, you will still have to plead your case to the banker or let the entries age off your report if you’re having trouble getting approved for checking or savings accounts.

A better option: try filing a dispute to determine if the bank will bother responding to your request. You may find that they don’t and you’ll be off the hook. Or you can request a removal of the negative information on the grounds of turning a new leaf financially or in exchange for payment. More on that shortly.

How to Handle Denied Dispute Requests

In the event your request for a dispute is denied, you have a few options. For starters, you can choose to let the negative entries run their course for five years and try again at that point. Many who choose this route turn to Non-ChexSystems or Second Chance Banking options. Credit unions and community banks may also be open to doing business with you as they generally have less stringent qualification criteria.

You can also step it up a notch by taking your previous dispute and beefing it up with additional details to make a stronger case. If you choose to do so, it doesn’t hurt to include more supporting documentation as well if you have it on hand.

Another way to handle denied dispute requests is by reaching out to the financial institution that reported the negative data and requesting that they remove it. You may need to offer some form of payment if the account was negative at the time it closed, but simply making a request and explaining your reasoning may be enough to get them to act.

What If You Don’t Receive a Response from ChexSystems?

As mentioned earlier, information tied to disputes must be removed if you don’t receive a response within 30 days. However, it’s possible that your dispute slipped through the cracks or ChexSystems still hasn’t received a response from the information furnisher, or the bank.

While you have the right to escalate your complaint in the court of law, a better option is to contact ChexSystems to follow-up. If they still fail to issue a written response, it may be worthwhile to communicate your intent to sue them in the court of law. This should be enough to evoke a response.

The Bottom Line

While it’s possible to get out of ChexSystems sooner than later, you must be prepared to do the legwork to give yourself the best chance of getting the results you seek. This is particularly true if the data in your report is negative but true and hasn’t quite reached the five-year threshold. But if all else fails, you can always ask the branch manager or lead banker for an override to open an account or explore comparable options elsewhere.

Debt Validation

Are debt collectors chasing you down about a delinquent account? While you may be inclined to just pay them what they owe to make the constant calls and letters stop, there’s a better option: debt validation.

Read on to learn more about why you should validate your debts before paying up, and how to do so using a debt validation letter.

What Is Debt Validation?

Per the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), the burden of proof is on the debt collector to prove that you actually owe what they say you do. This means that they must have documentation on hand that confirms that they not only are legally obligated to collect on the debt, but it actually belongs to you and is within the statute of limitations for collection.

Otherwise, they cannot legally report the information to the credit bureaus for inclusion in your report. Furthermore, their collection efforts must come to a halt. And if the debt is already being reported, it must be removed promptly.

But how do you go about validating your debt? It starts by sending a letter to the collection agency, which halts the phone calls, texts, and possibly reporting (depending on when the letter is sent).

Why Should You Validate Your Debt?

If you have the funds to pay off the collection account, shouldn’t you just pay what the debt collectors say you owe and move on? Not necessarily.

For starters, if the debt doesn’t belong to you, there’s no need to pay it as the responsibility to cover someone else’s financial burden should not fall on you. And while it may be easier to just pay the debt, especially if it’s for a small amount, the FDCPA protects you from having to pay for debts that don’t belong to you.

Furthermore, you want to make sure that you’re not paying more than what’s actually owed. Debt collectors can be sneaky and inflate outstanding balances or tack on miscellaneous fees without having the legal right to do so. But by validating the debt, they’ll be forced to adjust your bill if there are errors to reflect the accurate balance.

Most importantly, debt validation either confirms or denies that you actually owe that particular collection agency because the account is now in their hands. In other words, anyone can pick up the phone or send a letter to you demanding that you pay off a particular account. But are they really the company that was designated by the original creditor to do so? Or did they actually acquire the debt from the original creditor or are they just a fraudster pretending to be someone they aren’t? If you do happen to encounter a con artist and you pay off the debt without validating it first, you’ll still be on the hook and they will be long gone with your hard earned money.

How to Validate Your Debt

When the collection efforts initially commenced, you should have received a notice in the mail from the debt collector within the first five days of initial contact. This notice should have included key details about the debt and communicated that the debt collector has legal rights to collect on the debt. It should have also contained verbiage stating that you have 30 days to dispute the validity of the debt before they take further action, including reporting it to the credit bureaus.

But what if the letter didn’t come in the mail? You still have a right to send a letter requesting that the collection agency validate the debt.

Draft up a debt validation letter.

Your debt validation letter should include:

  • Your full name and address
  • The date and time the collection agency initially reached out to you
  • A statement requesting that they provide proof that you owe

View this handy template to help you get started.

Send the letter to the collection agency.

Once you’ve written your debt validation letter, it should be sent to the collection agency attempting to collect on the debt. Be sure to only forward over a copy of the letter and retain the original for your records. Also, send the letter via Certified Mail with a Return Receipt so you can know when it arrives at the debt collector’s physical location.

Await a response.

As mentioned earlier, collection efforts will come to a halt when the letter is received until they send you the proof you’re requesting. And don’t be surprised if the debt collector decides to take a step back and forward the account back over to the original creditor. This could happen if they don’t have the proof they need to legally collect on the debt.

But what if the debt collector never responds? Follow-up sending another letter requesting a response and re-iterating your rights under the FDCPA. In the package, be sure to include a copy of the original letter you sent over and a copy of the return receipt so they can know that you’re aware they received it.

Still no response? Notify the credit bureaus in writing that the collection agency has failed to respond to your validation requests so the entries can be removed from your credit report. Be sure to include any supporting documentation in the package you send over.

You can also file formal disputes with the credit bureaus. This will prompt them to reach out to the information provider (whether it be the original creditor or debt collector) to investigate your claim. If they fail to respond to the credit bureaus within the allotted 30-day window, the item must be removed from your credit report.

How to Move Forward If You Owe the Debt

You’ve taken all the necessary steps to validate the debt and the collection agency has provided proof that the debt is indeed yours and they have the right to collect on it. What’s next? Well, you have a few options:

  • Ignore the debt. This is a common approach if the statute of limitations is almost up or you simply don’t have the funds to remit payment at the moment and would rather face the risk of being sued than paying up.
  • Request a payment arrangement. Most debt collectors will work with you if you would like to break up what you owe into smaller chunks. Remember, chances are they only paid pennies on the dollar for the right to collect, so some income is better than none on their behalf.
  • Request a settlement. If you have a lump-sum of cash on hand, the debt collector may agree to settle the debt for a fraction of what you owe. Just be sure to get this in writing so you can avoid being sued later on down the line.
  • Negotiate a pay-for-deletion. Under this arrangement, the collection agency will remove the negative mark from your credit report in exchange for payment. This agreement should also be executed in writing so you’ll have proof in case the debt collector doesn’t uphold their end of the bargain.

The Bottom Line

Debt validation is one of the more effective tools in your arsenal of consumer protections under the FDCPA when dealing with debt collectors. And by taking the time out to draft up letters and do your due diligence, you could save yourself time, money, and headaches when dealing with delinquent debts that may or may not belong to you.

What Is a 401(k) Retirement Plan?

If you’ve ever conversed with a financial advisor about retirement, chances are there was some mention of the term, 401(k) plan. While you may be well aware that it’s a type of retirement plan, there’s also a chance you aren’t exactly sure what they entail, if you’re eligible, or if it’s something your employer even offers.

But don’t fret. In this guide, we’ll answer these questions and so much more.

401(k) Plans, Defined

According to IRS.gov, “a A 401(k) plan is a qualified plan that includes a feature allowing an employee to elect to have the employer contribute a portion of the employee’s wages to an individual account under the plan.”

In other words, it’s a retirement plan that allows you to contribute a percentage of your pre or post-tax earnings into an investment portfolio to build your nest egg. This means you’ll either save on taxes now or later, depending on which type of 401(k) plan you choose.

Plus, it affords you the opportunity to grow your retirement savings at an even faster rate as some employers offer matching contributions as an incentive of working for their company.

And you’ll have a say in how your money’s invested as you’re afforded the opportunity to decide on asset allocation strategy that best suits your needs. If you’re unsure of which spread is best, you can always connect with your plan administrator for additional guidance.

Types of 401(k) Plans

There are four types of 401(k) plans you should be aware of.

Traditional 401(k) Plan

Traditional 401(k) plans allows employers to make elective deferrals on a pre-tax basis through payroll. Employers also have the option to provide what’s referred to as matching contributions, which is usually based on the amount the employee contributes (up to a certain amount) or a blank amount companywide.

Roth 401(k) Plan

Roth 401(k) plans are structured like traditional 401(k) plans. However, elective deferrals are made on a post-tax basis. This means that you won’t derive the benefit of lowering your taxable income right now. However, you won’t be subject to federal income tax when you take distributions, which can be beneficial if you anticipate being in a higher income tax bracket several years down the line when you retire.

Safe harbor 401(k) Plan

Safe harbor (401) plans operate in the same manner as traditional 401(k) plans, but the key difference is in the vesting. “It must provide for employer contributions that are fully vested when made,” notes IRS.gov.

Simple 401(k) Plan

Simple 401(k) plans cater to employees of small businesses and similar to a safe harbor 401(k) plan, mandates that all contributions made on the employers behalf are fully vested. To qualify, the small business you are employed with must not have more than 100 employees that were compensated $5,000 or more in the prior calendar year.

Contribution Limits

The annual contribution limits for 401(k) plans are as follows:

  • Traditional 401(k) plans: $19,000 (plus $6,000 in catch-up contributions if you are 50 or older)
  • Safe harbor 401(k) plans: $19,000 (plus $6,000 in catch-up contributions)
  • Simple 401(k) plans: $13,000 (plus $3,000 in catch-up contributions)
  • Roth 401(k) plans: $18,500 (plus $6,000 in catch-up contributions)

(*Quick note: be sure to confirm that catch-up contributions are permitted by your company’s plan if you are planning on exercising this option.)

Benefits of 401(k) Plans

Free money

Assuming your employer offers matching contributions, you’ll have access to free money to help you increase your nest without doing any additional work on your part. Think of it as a gift from your employer or their way of saying thank you for your service to their company.

For this reason, it is highly recommended that you contribute at least up to the amount of the employer match. Otherwise, you’ll be leaving free money on the table.

Lower tax liability

The elective deferrals that you make to your 401(k) plans are on a pre-tax basis. So that means that federal income tax is deferred until you begin taking distributions. Even better, the contributions made to your 401(k) plan by your employer if they offer matching are also pre-tax. Of course, your taxable income can only be decreased to the extent of the annual contribution limits, as set forth by federal law (as discussed earlier).

The exception to the rule is the Roth 401(k) plan. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as you’ll be able to take distributions without having to worry about Uncle Sam taking his cut.

Facilitates saving for retirement

The beauty of 401(k) plans is the way in which contributions are made. Instead of writing a check or manually initiating a transfer, your payroll department will handle it for you. This means you won’t have to think twice about setting the funds aside because that will be taken care of before your direct deposit even hits your account. And chances are you won’t miss the money since you never hand it in your possession.

Drawbacks of 401(k) Plans

Plan Fees

In most instances, you’ll play a higher amount in administrative fees for a 401(k) than you would with a traditional IRA or other investment account. This isn’t a reason to ditch your 401(k) contributions altogether, especially if there’s an employer match. However, you may want to diversify your nest egg with other more cost-efficient investment vehicles.

Minimal Investment Options

Unfortunately, you are limited to the investment options offered by your employer’s plan. But if you set up your own brokerage account, you have the freedom to select any combination of assets that you please.

How Much Should You Contribute to Your 401(k)?

Wondering what percentage of your salary should be contributed to your 401(k)? The simple answer: up to the employer match. However, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, and it really just depends on your financial situation and goals for retirement. Check out this guide for an in-depth look at the best way to determine how much you should be contributing to your 401(k), and what to do if you reach the annual contribution limit. (HYPERLINK)

What’s the Waiting Period Before You Can Take Distributions?

If you begin taking distributions before you reach 59 ½ years of age, you will be assessed a early withdrawal penalty of 10 percent on the portion of proceeds received. Furthermore, you will be taxed at your federal rate.

To illustrate:

Distribution Amount Tax Bracket Early Withdrawal Penalty Tax Liability
$5,000 12% $500 $600
$10,000 22% $1,000 $2,200
$15,000 24% $1,500 $3,600

However, the same rules do not apply to Roth IRAs. In fact, your money is accessible once it’s been in your retirement account for at least five years.

Vesting Periods

You should also know that you can only receive the funds you have a vested interest in. Any contributions you make are available for distribution, but you must be vested with the employer to receive any matching contributions made on their behalf.

Wondering what it means to be vested? In most instances, employers will require that you work for a set number of years before you become vested in their company and have access to the funds contributed. The longer you serve, the higher the percentage of vested interest you’ll have. And at some point, you’ll be 100 percent vested and have access to all the matching contributions.

Mandatory Distributions

You must start taking distributions from your retirement plan at the age of X or you’ll be subject to x (CONFIRM)

Are You Allowed to Borrow Money From Your 401(k)?

The short answer is yes, in the form of an installment loan with a low interest rate if your plan permits this practice. In most instances, payments will automatically be deducted from your paycheck each pay period. And in the event you sever employment before the loan is paid in full, the plan administrator will recoup what you owe.

Is It Mandatory to Participate In a 401(k) Plan?

While some employers automatically enroll employees in their 401(k) plan, there’s no obligation to make contributions or elective deferrals. In fact, you have the right to decide what percentage of your earnings will be deducted and allocated to your plan, if any.

What Happens to Your 401(k) Plan If the Company Shuts Down?

Worried that funds in your 401(k) plan will be dissolved if your employer ceases operations? Don’t be. In the event this does happen, you will have the option to roll your plan over into a traditional IRA without being hit with the 10 percent penalty. Furthermore, you will not be subject to federal income tax as long as you don’t take distributions.

IRA vs. 401(k): Which Is The Better Option? (see other article)

Maybe you’ve been told that an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) is a better choice than the 401(k). Or perhaps your employer doesn’t offer a 401(k), so you have to look elsewhere to build your retirement savings.

As mentioned earlier, you want to take advantage of the employer match if possible, which would make the 401(k) plan the better option to start with. Then, you can move on to your traditional IRA and sock money away there. (If a 401(k) is not an option, start with the traditional IRA and consider a Roth IRA if needed).

And if you reach the point where you max out contributions to your traditional IRA, it doesn’t hurt to return to your 401(k) and pick up contributions there. Why so? Well, your tax liability will be lower and you’ll allow the power of compounding interest to work even more in your favor. Furthermore, you’ll be building a nice cushion that could come in handy should you need to borrow money later on down the line.

The Bottom Line

Best Mortgage Lenders (The 2019 Edition)

You’ve dreamed of owning your own home or upgrading to something nicer than what you’re currently in. Now that your finances are in order, you’re ready to move forward with finding the perfect home that meets you and your family’s needs. And you’re so excited about the home search that you forget to scope out the best mortgage lenders first to determine if the budget you had in mind was sound and what type of down payment and monthly obligation you’re looking at.

So, you set out to find exactly what you’re looking for. And after a few homes, you walk into the one that’s just right for you. But there’s only one problem: your finances aren’t suited to handle the purchase. Bummer, and you’ll have to start from scratch. Sound familiar?

It’s easy to get so drawn into searching for a new home that you forget how important it is to secure the most competitive mortgage for your financial situation. But this doesn’t have to be you. In fact, you can be well-prepared before you even step foot into a home that’s on the market. Plus, you can get through the pre-approval process without pulling your hair out.

That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the best mortgage lenders to lend you a helping hand.

Online Lenders

Lending Tree

Since 1998, Lending Tree has helped consumers secure financing for big-ticket purchases, like your first or next home, at the tap of a fingertip. They’re an online loan marketplace that allows borrowers to view loan offers from multiple lenders at once. Lending Tree also offers online tools, including mortgage calculators and mortgage rates in real-time, to help you make an informed lending decision.

Lenders in the Lending Tree network offer convention, FHA, and VA loans. The loan products and terms that you qualify for will depend on your income, credit score, employment history, cash reserves, and the amount you have available for a down payment.

If pre-qualified, you can view offers from up to five lenders by answering a few questions on their website. It won’t take more than a few minutes, and you’ll know where you stand and how to best move forward with the mortgage application process.

PennyMac Home Loans

Penny Mac is an A+ rated and BBB Accredited direct mortgage lender. They have been around for over 10 years and served over one million customers to date.

They offer conventional, FHA, VA, USDA, Investment Property, and Jumbo loans. Along with their vast selection of mortgage offerings, they also boast the Mortage Access Center (m.a.c.). In a nutshell, m.a.c. allows prospective buyers to complete the mortgage process from start to finish in the comforts of their own home. This means you can get pre-qualified, complete the entire mortgage application, view updates on your loan status, and upload the requested documentation all in one place.

You can get started with Penny Mac by submitting an inquiry online or calling 1-855-445-8557. And if you like the rate quote you receive and wish to move forward, you can begin the formal application process right away.

Rocket Mortgage

A subsidiary of Quicken Loans, Rocket Mortgage has redefined the home loan process by streamlining the way you secure a mortgage. There’s no paperwork involved and you’ll have a Verified Approval Letter in your hands within 24 hours of your documentation being received and verified by a loan officer.

To explore your rates, you’ll need to share some information about your finances via the website. If you’re a good fit, loan offers will be presented to you the same day. And you’ll have the ability to adjust down payment amounts directly on the dashboard to reach the desired monthly mortgage payment.

Even better, you have 90 days to decide if a mortgage offer is a good fit, thanks to the RateShield Approval program. (Quick note: this benefit only applies to consumers seeking a 30-year fixed-rate, convention, FHA, or VA home loan.

Vylla

Vylla is a one-stop shop for prospective homebuyers. You can search for the perfect home and secure financing directly from their website. And through the help of a home specialist, you’ll be able to navigate the home buying process, step by step, without pulling your hair out.

They also have several tools on their website to make your home buying experience seamless and pleasant, including the Infohub that is full of tips you’ll need every step of the way. Or you can use one of their affordability calculators to determine the perfect loan for you based on your desired monthly payment or purchase price.

You can initiate a loan inquiry by signing up on the website. Once you’ve entered your name, email address, phone number, and created a username and password, you’ll be directed to a questionnaire to help you determine what loan options may be a good fit.

Brick and Mortar Lenders

Carrington Mortgage Services

Carrington Mortgage Services is a direct lender that prides itself on stellar customer service. Accredited with an A+ rating by the Better Business Bureau, they have been serving consumers since 2007 and have funded over $22 billion in home loans since 2011.

They offer an array of mortgage products that can be tailored to suit your needs, including conventional, jumbo, adjustable-rate, FHA, USDA, and VA homes loans. Carrington Mortgage Services also has a First Time Buyers program that has flexible qualification criteria and allows you to secure a fixed rate mortgage with a low down payment. In addition, their Flexible Advantage home loan product caters exclusively to first-time homebuyers, those who are self-employed or those with less than perfect credit or a relatively high debt to income ratio.

To explore your loan options, call 1-888-267-0584 to speak with a loan officer. You can also visit one of their offices to get the ball rolling. They currently have locations in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, and Maryland.

CitiMortgage

CitiMortgage wants every prospective borrower that crosses their path to be equipped with the knowledge they need to make an informed home loan decision. For this reason, they have an assortment of tools on their website to help you navigate the mortgage process. And if you’re a customer, you may qualify for even lower rates than what’s advertised through Citi Mortgage Relationship Pricing.

Currently, CitiMortgage offers fixed-rate and adjustable rate mortgages, as well as FHA, VA, and Jumbo Loans. You may also qualify for a HomeRun mortgage that is designed for borrowers that may not have a ton of cash for a large down payment or need more flexible credit criteria.

Their SureStart Pre-approval process is very straightforward and will give you a snapshot of your loan options within minutes. You’ll also be able to view your credit score directly from the dashboard so you’ll know where you stand and if you should work to improve it before selecting a home in an effort to secure a lower interest rate.

To speak with a Home Lending Officer about your mortgage options through Citi, call 1-800-248-4638. They’re available Monday through Saturday and will be able to help you get on the right path to find a suitable loan product for your financial situation right away.

Loan Depot

Since opening their doors in 2010, Loan Depot has funded over $30 billion in new home purchases for consumers across the US. They are headquartered in Southern California but have over 150 offices nationwide with licensed loan officers standing by waiting to help you find the perfect mortgage product for your financial situation. You should also know that LoanDepot is the fifth largest retail mortgage originator in the nation.

Loan Depot offers fixed and adjustable rate mortgages, Jumbo loans, VA loans, and FHA loans. Qualification criteria vary by loan product but having less than perfect credit or minimal funds on hand to make a down payment won’t necessarily prevent you from qualifying for a loan. In fact, some of their loan products are catered towards customers with credit challenges or that fall into lower income brackets.

If you’re interested in exploring mortgage products from Loan Depot, visit one of their local branches. You can also call 1-888-983-3240.

SunTrust Mortgage

Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or are looking to purchase the home of your dreams, SunTrust Mortgage has a loan product for you. Their offerings include fixed and adjustable-rate mortgages, FHA Loans, USDA Loans, VA Loans, and Jumbo Loans.

Unlike other mortgage providers on the market, they have a Doctor Loan program that is designed to get Licensed Residents, Interns, Fellows in MD, DO, and DPM programs and licensed Physicians and Dentist into a new home. Fixed and adjustable-rate mortgages are available, and you may be eligible for 100 percent financing if qualified.

They also boast a Medical Professional Mortgage program that grants exclusive perks to those employed in the medical field. If qualified, you won’t be required to carry mortgage insurance, and you could get approved with as little as three percent down. Furthermore, SunTrust permits seller contributions of up to three percent to lower how much you have to come out of pocket when closing on your new home.

If you’re interested in exploring mortgage options from SunTrust that may be available to you, call 1-877-320-6591 or visit one of their branches to speak with a loan officer. You can also get pre-qualified online by applying through the SmartGUIDE app.

U.S. Bank

U.S. Bank makes it easy to acquire the home loan knowledge you need and get pre-qualified in minutes. Their website is full of resources to help you navigate the mortgage maze and you can also apply at the tap of a fingertip.

As a prospective borrower, you may be eligible for a conventional fixed-rate loan, adjustable-rate mortgage, FHA loan, VA loan, or Jumbo loan. But if you’re looking to flip homes in the near future or even build your own home, you may want to check out their investment property loans or new construction and lot loans.

Are you already doing business with U.S. Bank? That’s great news as you may be eligible for a discount of 0.25 percent of the loan amount, which can be deducted from the closing costs (capped at $1,000).

To retrieve a mortgage eligibility letter (if qualified), visit the U.S. Bank Loan Portal to apply. You can also call 1-888-291-2334 or visit a branch to speak with a Loan Officer.

Credit Unions

Alliant Credit Union

Alliant prides itself on one-to-one interaction with each of its clients. They go the extra mile to help prospective homeowners achieve their goal of purchasing a home and keep as much of their hard earned money in their pocket as possible.

You can choose from a fixed-rate or adjustable-rate mortgage, and the rates are some of the lowest on the market. Even better, you can lock in your rate for 60 or 120 days with all loans or new construction loans, respectively.

There’s no application fee, and you may not be required to make a down payment if you’re a first-time homebuyer that’s well-qualified. Furthermore, there are no application or escrow waiver fees, and your origination fee could be as little as $995.

Another major perk is the cash back rebate program, which grants you up to $6,500 when you purchase your new home through the Alliant Home Rewards program. But if you sell your existing home and purchase a new home through the program, you could receive up to $13,000 cash back within 45 days of the closing date.

Considering a home loan from Alliant Credit Union? Call 1-800-365-7003 to speak with a home loan specialist that can help guide you in the right direction. And if pre-qualified, you can customize your loan quotes to better suit your financial needs.

NASA Federal Credit Union

NASA Federal Credit Union is another viable option for mortgage loan products if you prefer a credit union over an online or traditional lender. If you qualify for membership, there are several mortgage options to explore, including fixed and adjustable-rate loans, FHA loans, and VA loans.

And if you’re having trouble finding a loan that works for you, they also offer specialized mortgage programs to help get you into the home of your dreams. You can apply for consideration online, in a branch, or by calling 1-888-627-2328.

Navy Federal Credit Union

Navy Federal Credit Union offers a variety of loan products geared towards service members. Their offerings include conventional fixed-rate loans, adjustable-rate mortgages, VA loans, and FHA loans. You may also be eligible for the following unique loan products, including the Military Choice or 100% Financing HomeBuyers Choice loans. Both are fixed-rate loans with up to 100 percent in financing available and have less stringent qualification criteria.

Interested in a second home or investment property? Navy Federal Credit Union has loan products that can assist you in making those purchases as well.

They have dedicated loan specialists on hand to help you evaluate your financial situation to determine loan products that are the best fit, walk you through the mortgage application, and arrange the closing. Even better, you won’t have to worry about your loan being sold off to another lender as they guarantee to personally service your loan until it’s paid in full. And if you’d prefer to learn as much as you can about what goes into buying a home before reaching out, check out their online knowledge center.

If you’d like to explore the possibility of working with Navy Federal Credit Union to get you into a new home, give them a call at 1-888-842-6328. You can also chat with a representative or apply directly from their website. And should you decide to move forward and work with a RealtyPlus agent in their network, you could receive up to $5,050 cash back when you close on your home.

USAA

USAA gives consumers searching for a home loan the best of both worlds. Not only will you have an array of mortgage options to choose from but you will also have access to some of the lowest rates amongst lenders in the industry.

Home loan options include conventional loans, first-time homebuyer loans, VA loans, Jumbo loans, and adjustable-rate mortgage loans. USAA also has loan products if you’re looking to purchase a second home for vacations or secure an investment property.

They also have a wide selection of educational resources on their website via the learning center to help you understand how the mortgage process works. And you can track the progress of your loan application directly from the online dashboard.

Best of all, you can earn up to $24,000 ($1,230 on average) in cash back through the Real Estate Rewards Network when you close on your new home. This program connects you with a seasoned realtor with a stellar track record to help you find the perfect home. There are over 16,000 realtors in the network, and the program is available nationwide.

Call 1-800-531-0341 to speak with a representative from the mortgage department about loan options that may be a good fit. You can also start the pre-approval process online and receive a quick response so you’ll know how to best move forward.

The Bottom Line

Chances are you probably didn’t have the time of your life when searching for the right lender and submitting all the documentation to get pre-approved. After all, the home search is way more fun. But you’re wallet will thank you for your diligence in the long run.

Best Auto Loans (The 2019 Edition)

Are you in the market for a new vehicle? Finding your ride is the easy part but getting approved for a loan may be a bit more legwork. And if you have less than perfect credit, you may encounter a few roadblocks along the way. So, we’ve compiled a list of options to help you get started. Here are the best auto loans on the market:

Best Auto Loans for Good Credit

If you have excellent or even good credit and the income to back it up, you shouldn’t have any trouble securing a loan with a competitive interest rate. Here are some of the best options on the market:

CarsDirect

For over 20 years, CarsDirect has made car ownership dreams a reality for over 5 million customers. They are an online search tool that connects those searching for an auto loan with a lender in their network that offers competitive financing terms.

Prospective borrowers can get approved for an auto loan for CarsDirect with an APR as low as 3.09 percent, which is one of the lower rates on the market. (If your credit isn’t up to par, you’ve recently filed for bankruptcy, or you’re a credit newbie, CarsDirect may be able to assist, but you’ll pay more in interest).

You can apply online or call 1-888-227-7347 to get started. It only takes 60 seconds to complete the loan request form, and you should hear back from a dealer within the CarsDirect network within 24 hours regarding financing options if you pre-qualify for a loan.

Lending Tree

Lending Tree allows you to view multiple offers from auto lenders through their website. Lenders in their network offer repayment terms from one to seven years with APRs as low as 3.09 percent.

But if your credit falls below what they deem as excellent or good, you won’t automatically be denied. Instead, you may be offered a higher interest rate or and asked to make a larger down payment to get approved.

Ready to explore your loan options? Select the type of loan you’re looking for along with the desired loan term. Next, you’ll be prompted to answer the series of questions to view your results. You can also call 1-800-413-4620 to speak with a customer care representative.

MyAutoLoan

Another way to view several auto loan options at your fingertips is the myAutoloan.com platform. It only takes two minutes of your time to input identifying and income information to determine what loan offers you qualify for. And if the platform finds a match, you’ll be presented with options from up to four lenders in real-time.

Interest rates for well-qualified borrowers start at 2.74 percent. But if you are unsure of where your interest rate will lie on the APR spectrum., you can use the Auto Loan Interest Rate Calculator to get an idea of where you stand based on the desired loan type, loan amount your credit rating, credit score, and zip code.

You can apply via the website or by calling 1-214-540-3350. If approved, you’ll receive a check or online certificate to purchase your vehicle within 24 hours. However, there’s no obligation to accept any of the finance offers presented if they aren’t a good fit.

Best Auto Loans for Bad Credit

What if your credit doesn’t hit the mark and you fall into the subprime borrower category? Don’t fret? You may still be able to secure financing for a new ride. Start by seeing what these lenders have to offer:

Auto Credit Express

Auto Credit Express is accredited by the Better Business Bureau and has helped scores of customers with bad credit find auto loan financing. Their online lending tool matches prospective borrowers with lenders that can serve them.

Recent bankruptcies and major collection issues won’t automatically disqualify you for financing. Furthermore, you may not be required to make a large down payment as some lenders may accept as little as $500.

Rates and repayment terms vary by lender, and you can view your loan options by using the online form found on the website without impacting your credit score. Prefer to speak with a loan representative by phone? Call 1-855-439-0814 to get started.

Blue Sky Auto Finance

Blue Sky Auto Finance, a lending network that has been around for over 14 years, is connected to an array of lenders that specialize in bad credit auto loans. The loan term you qualify for will depend on your individual financial profile, but past bankruptcies and collections are ok.

Loan amount of $30,000 with repayment periods of up to 72 months are available. Even better, you may qualify for an interest rate (APR) as low as 3.99 percent on your auto loan.

To explore your loan options through a lender in the Blue Sky Auto Finance Network, complete the three-step form found on the website. You can also call 1-800-BLUE-SKY for additional assistance. The information input in the search tool will be analyzed and matched with up to four lenders that you may be able to help you secure financing.

Capital One Auto Finance

If you have a credit score of at least 500, Capital One Auto Finance may be able to assist you with an auto loan. You can get pre-qualified online in just a few minutes with no impact to your credit score.

And once you’re in the clear, they offer an Auto Navigator that lets you explore vehicles for sale by over 1,000 dealers in their network. Even better, you can conduct advanced searches by the desired year, make, and model of the vehicle, and view the pricing information based on the loan terms you qualify for.

Before getting started, you should know that the vehicle must meet the following criteria:

  • Have a price point of at least $4,000
  • Not have over 120,000 miles
  • Be at least 2008 or newer

DriveTime

DriveTime is a leader in the industry for bad credit auto loans. You can initiate the loan application process online or by visiting a DriveTime location, picking out the vehicle of your choice, and discussing financing options from there.

What makes them unique is that they have a fleet of over 15,000 used vehicles, and handle the financing in-house so you won’t have to go elsewhere. And all types of credit are accepted as long as you have the income to make payments on the loan.

RoadLoans

RoadLoans also caters to lenders with bad credit. They are a direct lender with over 14,000 dealers in their network. Auto loans are available on both new and used vehicles, you don’t necessarily have to make a hefty down payment to get approved.

You can check your rates by applying online or calling 1-888-276-7202. You’ll receive a lending decision in seconds so you can start shopping right away. But if you’d prefer to search for loans from other lenders or ditch the auto buying process altogether, you won’t be penalized as there’s no obligation to accept the loan offer you receive.

Traditional Banks

Prefer to do things the traditional way? Below is a list of brick-and-mortar banks that have reputable auto loan products worth considering:

Bank of America

In just about every city in the U.S., you’ll spot Bank of America filled with representatives waiting to do business with you. Their rates on 60-month loan terms start at 3.59 percent. However, this figure varies by your state of residence, loan term, and creditworthiness. And you may qualify for an even lower rate if you’re an existing Bank of America customer.

To see if you qualify for an auto loan from Bank of America, complete their brief online application. You’ll receive an instant decision and can shop in confidence knowing that your financing is already taken care of.

Chase

Chase is another traditional lender that offers competitive financing options for vehicle purchases. They’ve been around for several years and have served over 3.7 million auto loan customers.

Interest rates start at 4.34 percent APR, by vary by loan term and creditworthiness. And you’ll have 48, 60, or 72 months to pay off your loan balance. If you wish to see an estimate of the loan terms you’ll receive, use the Auto Loan calculator found on the website. You’ll need to indicate if you’re seeking a new or used vehicle, along with the year and make, your state of residence, your estimated credit rating, and the amount you’re looking to borrow.

LightStream

LightStream by SunTrust Bank is one of the only lenders in the auto loan marketplace that offers fee-free loans to borrowers with excellent credit. Interest rates start at only 3.34 percent when you enroll in AutoPay, and you’ll receive a loan term from 24 to 84 months. (You can view interest rates by loan amount and repayment period directly on the website).

Other borrower perks include:

  • The Rate Beat Program: LightStream will lower your interest rate (APR) by .10 percentage points if you find a lender offering a better rate. Conditions apply.
  • The $100 Loan Experience Guarantee: if you aren’t satisfied with the loan experience, you’ll receive $100 for your troubles.

You can initiate the loan application process online or by visiting a SunTrust Bank branch. If approved, submit the requested documentation and you could receive your loan proceeds the same day.

USAA

If you’re a USAA customer searching for an auto loan, you’re in good hands. Their interest rates (APRs) are as low as 3.09 percent and 3.79 percent on new and used auto loans, respectively. Even better, you can lock in your rate for up to 45 days if you need time to explore other loan options or find the perfect ride.

You could also qualify for a loan term of up to 84 months, which makes your monthly payment more affordable. And they even offer a car buying service to facilitate the search process and help you save a bundle on the final purchase price.

To determine if you pre-qualify, submit the online application. It only takes a few minutes and if approved, you can upload the supporting documents, e-sign your loan contract, and receive a check to go shopping in a jiffy.

Credit Unions

Credit unions also have a track record of extending low rates to auto loan customers because of their cooperative structure. Here are some of the best choices out there:

Alliant Credit Union

You may qualify for an auto loan with an interest rate (APR) as low as 3.74 percent. Even better, a 0.50 percent rate discount applies if you use their car buying service to find the perfect vehicle for you. The lowest rates are only available on auto loan terms of up to 60 months, but you may qualify for a repayment term of up to 84 months.

Alliant accepts auto loan applications by phone at 1-800-328-1935 or online. Funding decisions are usually made the same business day, and customer service representatives are standing by 24/7 to assist you with your purchase. And once your loan is approved and finalized, proceeds will be forwarded to your or the dealer overnight via FedEx.

Navy Federal Credit Union

The auto loan rates offered by Navy Federal Credit Union are among some of the lowest in the industry. Depending on your credit rating, you could qualify for financing on a new or used vehicle with a rate as low as 2.99 percent (APR). They also offer repayment terms from 36 to 96 months, so you can tailor the monthly payment so it’s affordable and doesn’t implode your budget.

Their application process is straight-forward and won’t take up too much of your time. Even better, you’ll know within five minutes if you’re approved so you can start shopping for the car of your dreams.

Suncoast Credit Union

Suncoast Credit Union members can access rates as low as 3.25 percent (APR) on new and used auto loan financing. Loan terms start at 36 months, but you may be eligible for a repayment period as long as 72 months.

They also offer a car buying service via CU Auto Branch that allows you to save a bundle on your new vehicle. Or you can purchase a vehicle through a member-only Suncoast Car Sale, and receive up to 125 percent loan-to-value.

To apply, complete the online application. You can also visit a branch to explore your auto loan options.

The Bottom Line

When shopping for an auto loan, be sure to explore several lenders before making a decision. That way, you can rest assured that you’re securing the most competitive financing terms.

Best Personal Loans for Bad Credit (The 2019 Edition)

When you’re strapped for cash but have less than perfect credit, you’ll quickly find that getting a personal loan from your financial institution is difficult. But that doesn’t mean you have to settle for payday loans or cash advances with stringent repayment terms and astronomical interest rates.

Below is a comprehensive list of the best personal loans for bad credit:

Avant

If your credit score is at least 600, you may qualify for a personal loan of up to $35,000 from Avant. Depending on your income and creditworthiness, the APR you receive will range from 9.95 to 35.99 percent.

You can view your loan options via the website without generating a hard inquiry. Be prepared to provide your name, address, Social security number, and information about your income. It only takes a few minutes of your time to submit an inquiry online, and your credit score won’t be affected. There’s no obligation to accept the loan offer or move forward with the application process.

But should you decide to take out a personal loan with Avant, you may be charged an administration fee of up to 4.75 percent when the loan proceeds are deposited into your bank account. This amount will be deducted from the total loan amount upfront and disclosed in the loan paperwork. However, the good news is you can expect the funds to hit your account within one business day.

The loan repayment period you receive will be anywhere from 24 to 60 months. And if you wish to pay off the balance early, you will not be responsible for prepayment fees.

CashUSA

CashUSA is an online search and comparison tool that helps connect borrowers that have less than perfect credit with lenders that can help them get the cash they need when in a financial bind. Loan amounts range between $500 and $10,000, with terms from 90 days to 72 months. And you should expect to pay an APR of 5.99 to 35.99 percent.

To qualify for a loan with a lender in the CashUSA network, you should meet the minimum criteria outlined below:

  • Be at least 18 years old and a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Have a verifiable source of post-tax income of at least $1,000 per month
  • Possess a checking account and be listed as the primary account holder

Want to explore loan options that may be available to you through lenders in the CashUSA network? Simply visit the website and input the amount you wish to borrow, your name, zip code, and email to get started. You can also call 1-866-973-6587 if you’d prefer to speak with a loan officer.

If you’re matched with a lender and accept a loan offer, the next step is to provide any requested documentation to the lender to substantiate the information provided in your loan application. And once the loan is finalized, the proceeds will be deposited into your bank account in as little as one business day.

BadCreditLoans.com

As the name indicates, BadCreditLoans.com is loan search service that caters to consumers with bad credit. With over 20 years in the industry, they make it simple for cash-strapped customers to find personal loans even if their credit isn’t up to par.

Loan amounts range from as little as $500 to as much as $5,000. And depending on the loan offer you receive, you’ll have between three and 36 months to repay the loan.

Wondering if you qualify for a loan? While there isn’t a minimum credit score requirement that you have to meet, you should meet the following criteria:

  • Be 18 years of age or older
  • Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Receive a steady source of income, which can be from a full-time job, disability or Social Security benefits. Self-employment income from applicants will also be considered.
  • Have an open checking account in your name

And no matter how low your credit score is, a steady source of income and a valid checking account may be enough to get you approved for a personal loan.

To review your loan options, select the amount you want to borrow and enter your email address. Once you select the “Get Started!” button, you’ll be led through a series of questions regarding your finances, employment, and income to determine if any of the lenders in the BadCreditLoans.com network are a good match.

LendingPoint

Accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB), LendingPoint is a direct lender that has served thousands of customers and loaned over $500 million to consumers nationwide. To date, they serve customers in 34 states and the District of Columbia.

The leadership team understands that you are more than your credit score, and will go the extra mile to evaluate if you’re a good fit for a personal loan product.

Loans between $2,000 and $25,000 are available, and you could receive the loan proceeds in as little as one business day. Most borrowers have credit scores in the 600s and meet the following criteria:

  • Be 18 years or older
  • Earn an annual income of at least $20,000. (Earnings can be generated from full-time employment, self-employment, retirement earnings, or other valid sources of income).
  • Have a bank account in your name

You can get pre-qualified for a loan from LendingPoint without impacting your credit score. All you have to do is answer a few questions about the desired loan amount, intended use, and your income. If the loan is a good fit, you’ll be asked to provide a copy of your driver’s license, bank statements, a voided check, and proof of income so the loan officer can review the information provided in the loan application. And as mentioned earlier, the loans proceeds will arrive in your bank account in as little as one business day once the application is finalized.

But if you’d prefer to search elsewhere before making a loan decision or reject the offer right away, there’s no penalty for doing so.

MoneyMutual

MoneyMutual is a free online marketplace that will help you find bad credit loans so you can get the money you need in a jiffy. They’ve helped over two million borrowers and have the tools to assist you as well. Even better, the application process is streamlined and will only take five minutes of your time.

You can borrow as much as $2,500, but the loan terms, including the interest rate and repayment period, will vary by lender. To qualify, lenders will generally require you to meet the following criteria:

  • Be 18 years or older
  • Be a citizen or permanent resident of the U.S.
  • Have a steady source of income of at least $800 per month. (Self-employment and fixed income will be considered).
  • Have a valid checking account

Visit the website to get started with the loan application process. If there’s a match, you’ll be directed to the lender’s website to complete their application and upload any requested documentation. At that time, you’ll also receive the details of your loan offer, including the amount you’re approved for, interest rate, and repayment period.

NetCredit

Headquartered in Chicago, NetCredit is a financial services provider that looks beyond credit scores to get prospective borrowers cash to meet their financial needs. But unlike many other lenders out there, they go as far as offering resources to help you improve your credit profile while repaying the loan.

They offer personal loans from $1,000 to $10,000. Origination fees do apply, but they will are determined by your state of residence. Furthermore, the interest you’ll pay on the loan depends on your income and creditworthiness.

You can check your eligibility online without impacting your credit score. And if approved, the loan proceeds could arrive in your bank account by the next business day.

When you take out a loan with NetCredit, you’ll be able to take advantage of a host of benefits, including:

  • The ability to tailor your loan offer to best suit your needs with the My RightFit Tool
  • Clarity on your loan terms, including the interest rate, fees, and how much you will pay over the life of the loan with the ClearCost for Me promise
  • The ability to check your loan options in real-time and not hurt your credit score with MyScoreSaver
  • The option to return the loan proceeds before 6 pm CT on the business day following initial disbursement with the My Choice Guarantee
  • Credit boosting capabilities since loan payments are reported to both Experian and TransUnion with MyCreditBuilder

If you have additional questions about personal loans for bad credit from NetCredit, give them a call at 1-877-392-2014.

NorthCash

NorthCash offers installment loans between $300 and $1,500 to borrowers with varying credit backgrounds. But keep in mind that this loan should only be used as a short-term solution for borrowers with credit issues because the APR can be a bit steep.

However, it still stands out as one of the best personal loans for bad credit because it’s easy to qualify and get your loan funded.

You can check your rate online without impacting your credit score. But if you’d prefer to initiate a loan request by phone, call 1-855-333-6570 and a customer care specialist will walk you through the application process.

And if approved, expect to see the funds in your bank account in as little as one business day once you’ve forwarded over the necessary documentation, which typically includes a copy of your most recent bank statement and proof of income.

OneMain Financial

OneMain Financial fully embraces its slogan, lending done human, by looking beyond the algorithms to get consumers with credit woes the cash they need when in a financial crunch. Loans range from $1,500 to $30,000, and the proceeds can be used in any way that you see fit.

 

Most traditional lenders have strict minimum credit scores that they require to even be considered for funding. However, One Main Financial examines your entire profile, including your income, expenses, debt obligations, and collateral (if applicable), to find a solution that best suits your need. Even better, they have branches throughout the U.S. so you can sit down with a loan officer to review options that may be available to you.

They also boast same-business day funding options. But to take advantage of this perk, your loan application will need to be approved and processed by noon. And should you decide to pay the loan off early, you won’t be assessed a prepayment penalty.

To get started with the application, complete the online form. You’ll receive real-time results without impacting your credit score.

PersonalLoans.com

PersonalLoans.com is an online search tool with a vast network of lenders that cater to prospective borrowers with credit issues.

Their personal loan offerings include:

  • Peer To Peer Loans: Loan amounts range from $1,000 to $35,000. You’ll need a minimum credit score of 600 to qualify, and you must have a steady and verifiable source of income that’s at least $2,000 per month.
  • Personal Installment Loans: With a credit score of 580 or higher, you may qualify for a personal installment loan between $1,000 and $35,000. The lender will review your income and other outstanding debt obligations to determine how much you are eligible to receive. You will need a verifiable source of employment or self-employment income. Government benefits are also eligible for consideration.
  • Bank Personal Loans:

While less than perfect credit won’t automatically disqualify you for a loan, lenders are more likely to approve applicants with accounts that are not more than 60 days past due, do not have recent or active bankruptcies, are not repeatedly late on payments to creditors, do not have recent charge-offs. You must also have an ample amount of income to cover existing outstanding debt obligations

With regards to loan terms, you’ll receive an interest rate that’s anywhere from 5.99 to 35.99, which is substantially lower than what you’d find with payday lenders. Repayment periods range between 90 days and 72 months.

To determine if you qualify for a loan from one of the lenders in the PersonalLoans.com network, Insert name and email address into the online form. If there’s a match, you’ll be able to view your rates right away.

However, you are not obligated to accept the offers presented to you. But should you decide to move forward, the entire process done on the PersonalLoans.com online Account Center.

The Bottom Line

By doing a little legwork, you’ll be able to secure a personal loan even if your credit isn’t up to par. Start with this comprehensive list of lenders to analyze what options are out there. And most importantly, start making strides towards improving your credit health. That way, you’ll have even more options to choose from later on down the line.

Best Bad Credit Auto Loans (The 2019 Edition)

Worried that bad credit will prevent you from getting a car loan? Or maybe you’re a credit newbie with very little income. Check out our best bad credit auto loans that can get you financed and riding in no time.

Best Bad Credit Auto Loans

Auto Credit Express

Auto Credit Express is an online lending service caters to prospective borrowers in the US and Canada with credit challenges. They have been around for 20 years and are accredited by the Better Business Bureau with an A+ rating.

Loan proceeds can be used for new and used vehicles, or to refinance an existing loan product. Financing for lease options is also available to borrowers with less than perfect credit. Even better, you may be able to qualify for a loan with as little as $500 down, and some lenders may not require a down payment at all. Another perk of using this service is that they may still be able to match you with a lender, even if you’ve recently filed for bankruptcy.

To explore loan options that may be available to you, simply fill out on the online form on their website. In less than three minutes, you’ll know if you qualify for auto loan financing from lenders in the Auto Credit Express network. There’s no impact on your credit score to use this service. But if you’d prefer to inquire about bad credit auto loan options by phone, you can also call 1-855-439-0814.

Blue Sky Auto Finance

Founded in 2004, Blue Sky Auto Finance is another well-known lending network that can help you get approved for a car loan, regardless of your credit rating. And past bankruptcies don’t automatically disqualify you for financing.

They work with a vast network of lenders and auto dealers nationwide and can help you qualify for a loan with an APR as low as 3.99 percent. Plus, you’ll have up to 72 months to repay the loan, which helps make the monthly payment more affordable.

When you submit your information using the three-step online form or by calling 1-800-BLUE SKY, they will use their auto loan and comparison tool to match you with up to four lenders that can help you get the financing you need. Loans are valued at up to $30,000 and can be used to purchase a new or used car, truck, or sports utility vehicle. You can also use the loan proceeds to refinance your existing auto loan if you wish to keep your current vehicle.

Capital One Auto Finance

While Capital One doesn’t cater specifically to consumers with less than perfect credit, you may be able to qualify for an auto loan with a credit score as low as 500. And what makes them stand out above the rest is that their one of very few mainstream lenders to do so.

You can use their Auto Navigator tool to not only secure financing but select a ride that best suits your needs through one of over 1,000 partnering dealers. The tool also makes it easy to find your dream ride by simply snapping a photo and using the “search by photo” feature to let the Auto Navigator do the work for you.

There’s no impact to your credit score, and you’ll be able to view pricing information (i.e. interest, monthly payment repayment terms) on the particular make and model you select directly from the dashboard. And if a particular repayment term, monthly payment, or downpayment doesn’t work for you, the tool gives you the option to customize a loan offer that’s not too tough on your wallet.

If you aren’t quite sure which vehicle you’d prefer, there’s an option to search all the vehicles at partnering dealerships by location or price. Even better, you can view real-time pricing information on any of the vehicles listed.

Loans are available on both new and used cars, trucks, minivans, and SUVs. However, the vehicle must be priced at $4,000 or more and not have over 120,000 miles. It must also not be older than a 2008 model year.

To receive a pre-qualified offer, complete the short online questionnaire or call 1-800-689-1789. Upon completion, you’ll receive an almost instantaneous response with your loan terms.

Cars Direct

Although they are not a direct lender, Cars Direct works with an array of dealerships and subprime lenders to help you get the financing you need for your ride, regardless of your credit history. That means little or no credit, along with past bankruptcies won’t disqualify you from getting a loan offer. They’ve been around for over 20 years and have served over 5 million customers.

Dealers and lenders in their network offer loans on new and used vehicles, or you can refinance your existing auto loan. You can explore your options by submitting the auto loan request form found on the website, which will give you a response in as little as one minute. The process can also be initiated by calling 1-888-227-7347 or initiating a live chat with one of their customer service representatives.

If Cars Direct finds a match, the lender will reach out to you within a 24-hour window to discuss your loan options. At that time, they will also tailor a loan solution for you and help you find a vehicle you can comfortably afford.

CarFinance.com

CarFinance.com was founded in 2011 and has served thousands of customers. They are a loan matching service that specializes in helping those with credit woes secure a loan for a new or used ride. You can also apply for a refinancing loan.

If you have a credit score of at least 525, you may qualify for financing. Even better, you may be able to qualify for a loan with a competitive interest rate without making a down payment, which is not common for subprime loans.

To explore your options, submit the online form. It only takes a few minutes of your time. And there’s no impact to your credit score. If approved, you’ll be able to use the Loan Driver tool to view detailed pricing information for your loan offer. Another major perk is that you’ll be able to complete the loan application process directly from your computer before you head to the dealership to pick out your ride.

Carvana

Carvana offers auto loan solutions for borrowers with bad credit. What makes them unique is that they’re also an online dealer, so you’ll be dealing with a one-stop-shop which saves a ton of time and possibly money. All you need to qualify is an annual income of $10,000 or more and no active bankruptcies.

Fill out the online form and receive an instant response. It only takes two minutes, and submitting an inquiry won’t impact your credit score. And if you’re approved but need more time to evaluate your loan offer, explore other options, or prepare your finances for a new loan, you’ll have up to 45 days to make a decision.

You also have the option to adjust your desired loan amount, monthly payment, and down payment to best suit your needs. Best of all, you can view actual pricing information for the particular vehicle you’re interested in purchasing.

But in the unfortunate event that you’re unable to qualify for an auto loan product from Carvana, you may still be in luck. They work with several third-party lenders to help you get approved for a loan.

DriveTime

DriveTime is a one-stop shop for consumers with bad credit that are seeking an auto loan. You can choose a vehicle from their inventory of over 15,000 used cars, trucks, and SUVs.

If you’re ready to make a purchase, you can work directly with their in-house financing department to get approved for a loan. The online application is straight-forward and it only takes two minutes to receive a lending decision. You can also call 888-418-1212 to get the application started.

Once you’re approved, the next step is to peruse all the vehicles they have to offer. While doing so, you can also view loan details, including the monthly payment, interest rate, and minimum downpayment requirement, in-real time directly from the DriveTime dashboard.

And once you’ve selected the perfect ride, you can finalize the loan offer and hit the road in your new ride in no time. Another added benefit is that they’ll give you access to your credit score.

Liberty Auto Loan

Liberty Auto Loan offers bad credit auto loans to get your credit ranking back on track. They are a BBB Accredit Business that operates as a loan matching service to help borrowers with bad credit get the best deal on auto loan financing.

It only takes a few minutes to use the service. And even if you’ve recently filed for bankruptcy, you may still qualify for a loan. If you’re matched with a lender, expect to receive a response within a 24-hour window.

RoadLoans

With over 18 years of experience, RoadLoans is a direct lender that specializes in car loans for those with less than perfect credit or credit newbies. You may also qualify for an auto loan on your next car, truck, or SUV purchase or refinance, even if you have a past bankruptcy on your credit profile.

With over 14,000 dealers across the United States in their network, you shouldn’t encounter any difficulty when searching for the perfect ride. You can also use the loan proceeds to refinance your current auto loan. You can apply for a loan directly from their website and receive an instant lending decision.

myAutoloan

myAutoloan is another online search and comparison tool that can connect you with lenders with less than perfect credit. A FICO score of at least 500 and a monthly income of $1,800 may be enough to qualify for a loan.

When you apply, you’ll be matched with up to four lenders that may be able to assist. And if you are approved, the vehicle must be no older than 10 years old and have less than 125,000 miles. The loan amount must also be at least $8,000 to qualify for financing or refinancing.

How to Get Approved for a Bad Credit Auto Loan

Check Your Credit

Your credit score is an integral part of your profile that most lenders will weigh heavily when evaluating your loan application. And while it may be possible to get approved for an auto loan with a low credit score, working to improve this three-digit number only strengthens the odds of being approved for a loan with a lower interest rate and minimal down payment requirement.

So, it’s best to start by retrieving a free copy of your credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com from each of the three credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – and reviewing them to confirm the accuracy of the contents. But should you spot any errors, dispute them promptly to ensure your credit score is updated to accurately reflect what’s in your credit report.

Run the Numbers

How much can you afford to pay each month for a car loan? And once the monthly payment is made, will there be enough wiggle room in your budget to cover insurance, routine maintenance and major repairs (as needed)?

Explore Lenders

While it may be convenient to go with the first lender that offers you a loan, specifically if you’ve had trouble securing financing because of your credit woes, it’s best to do your homework. Simply put, shopping around gives you the best chance of securing an auto loan with a competitive interest rate, which is especially important with subprime lenders that tend to charge sky-high interest rates to risky borrowers.

And no need to worry about multiple inquiries dragging down your credit score each time you apply for a loan. Why so? Well, the FICO credit scoring model allows you to apply for financing with several lenders and only counts a lone hard inquiry if the applications are submitted within a set period of time.

Apply with the Top Lenders

Once you’ve narrowed down your top three or four lenders, it’s time to start applying. Be prepared to provide your name, personal identifying information, employment data, and any corresponding documents to substantiate the data present on your application. This includes recent pay stubs, tax returns, and possibly bank statements.

Finalize the Loan Terms

Don’t settle for the first loan offer the lender presents you with. Instead, negotiate the terms to see if you can get a better deal. Something as simple as a one-percent reduction in the interest rate can save you hundreds, if not thousands over the life of the loan. And you may also be able to convince them to lower the minimum down payment requirement so you won’t have to put a large sum of money on the table right out the gate.

Sign on the Dotted Line

Before you commit to the loan, it’s important to read the fine print and ask about any contents that you need clarity on. And once you’ve done so, you can sign on the dotted line and rest assured knowing that you went the extra mile to find the best bad credit auto loan for you.

The Bottom Line

Subprime lenders offering exorbitant interest rates aren’t the only way to go when considering bad credit auto loans. Since there are scores of direct lenders with competitive financing offers, along with online search and loan comparison tools, you should be able to find an auto loan in no time, even if you have bad credit.

Best Personal Loans for Good Credit (The 2019 Edition)

It’s no secret. The most competitive interest rates on loan products generally go to consumers with good or excellent credit history. If you fall into this category and are in the market for a personal loan, look no further than our recommendations for the best personal loans for good credit.

BestEgg

BestEgg has helped over 450,000 consumers access the funds they need minus the red tape. They are accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) with an A+ rating and have funded over $6 billion in loans to date.

Loans range from $2,000 to $35,000, with a fixed APR from 5.99 to 29.99 percent. An origination fee between 0.99 and 5.99 percent applies. However, the loan amount, repayment term, and interest rate will be determined by your creditworthiness and debt to income ratio.

The proceeds can be used for credit card refinancing, debt consolidation, home improvements, and moving expenses. Borrowers can also use the funds to cover the costs associated with a new baby or adoption, special occasion, vacation, or any other big-ticket purchase.

The application process is rather swift, and same day funding options are available. You should also know that you can inquire about your potential rate with no impact to your credit score.

Credible

Credible grants you access to the best possible rates on personal loans by shopping your information with up to 10 lenders in their network. Whether you’re seeking funds to pay down credit card debt, consolidate installment loans, cover medical expenses, or make a big-ticket purchase, they have a covered. Lenders in the Credible network are as follows:

  • Avant
  • Best Egg
  • FreedomPlus
  • Laurel Road
  • LendingClub
  • LightStream from SunTrust
  • Marcus by Goldman Sachs
  • Payoff
  • Prosper
  • SoFi
  • Upgrade
  • Upstart

Qualified applicants can get a loan from a lender in the Credible network with an APR as low as 4.99 percent, and discounted APRs are available through the loyalty program or when you enroll in autopay. Depending on your debt-to-income ratio and credit score, you have access to up $50,000. However, loan amounts up to $100,000 are available to well-qualified borrowers.

There’s no impact to your credit score to check your loan rates, and it’ll only take two minutes of your time. And should you decide to move forward with the application, you can expect for your loan to be finalized and funded within one to two business days.

Laurel Road

Headquartered in Connecticut, Laurel Road offers personal loan products to help you get by when you’re in a financial crunch. They have been around since 2006 and served thousands of consumers to date. They offer personal loans between $1,000 and $45,000, and the proceeds can be used to pay down debt, take that dream vacation, cover unexpected medical expenses, or however you see fit.

The APR on personal loans from Laurel Road start at 8.01 percent, and you can receive a 0.25 percent discount if you enroll in autopay. As with most personal lenders, creditworthiness plays a major role in the rate you receive, and the more favorable your credit history, the lower the rate that you’ll be eligible for. Also, you can expect a slightly higher interest rate with longer loan terms. To illustrate, their rates by repayment period are as follows:

  • 3-year term: 8.01 to 13.80 percent (fixed APR)
  • 4-year term: 9.16 to 15.20 percent (fixed APR)
  • 5-year term: 10.11 to 16.30 percent (fixed APR)

Another major perk of doing business with Laurel Road is their fee-free structure. They do no impose application or loan origination fees. And if you want to repay the loan early, you will not incur a prepayment penalty.

You can view your rates in two minutes tops to determine if what they’re offering is a good fit for you. There is no impact to your credit score, and should you decide to move forward with the application process, the loan proceeds can be deposited into your bank account in two business days.

Lending Club

If you’d prefer to explore personal loan options from multiple lenders, Lending Club may be a good fit. Lenders in their network offer personal loans of up to $40,000 that can be used to streamline or eliminate debt-repayment altogether, make home improvements, cover big-ticket purchases, or fill the void if an unexpected expense arises.

What makes Lending Club stand out among others in their industry is their competitive fixed APRs, which are as low as 6.95 percent for well-qualified borrowers. To check your rate, simply complete the online form. You’ll receive instant results, and your credit score won’t be impacted unless you continue with the application process. If approved for a loan, expect an origination fee is between one and six percent.

The loan proceeds should be deposited in your account within 7 days as it takes some time for identifying and income documents to be reviewed and approved by the underwriter. You’ll have 36 or 60 months to pay off of your loan, but there are no prepayment penalties if you pay the balance in full before the loan term lapses.

Lightstream by SunTrust

LightStream, a division of SunTrust Bank, is a direct lender that rewards creditworthy customers with some of the most competitive interest rates on the market. You can borrow anywhere from $5,000 to $100,000. And depending on your credit score and repayment term, you may qualify for a rate as low as 3.34 percent, and you’ll have between 24 and 144 months to repay the loan.

Even better, you’ll never pay any loan origination or prepayment penalties with LightStream.

Their personal loan terms are as follows:

  • Loan amounts between $5,000 and $9,999: 4.24 to 9.19 percent (APR)
  • Loan amounts between $10,000 and $24,000: 3.34 to 13.04 percent (APR)
  • Loan amounts between $25,000 and $49,999: 3.84 to 13.04 percent (APR)
  • Loan amounts between $50,000 and $100,000: 3.84 to 13.04 percent (APR)

Quick note: you will 0.50 percent more in interest if you opt-out of autopay.

Loan proceeds can be used to purchase an automobile, remodel your kitchen or bathroom, consolidate debt, install a swimming pool, cover medical expenses, pay for your dream wedding, or purchase a timeshare or boat.

You’ll have the best chance of qualifying for a personal loan from LightStream if you meet the following criteria:

  • Several years of established credit history, along with experience managing both installment loans and revolving (i.e. credit cards) accounts
  • Liquid assets (i.e. cash) that are easily accessible
  • Stable income that allows you to comfortably cover expenses and debts
  • Stellar payment history

It only takes a few minutes to apply online. And if approved, you can upload the requested documentation and receive your loan proceeds today.

LightStream also offers a Loan Experience Guarantee, which grants you $100 if you are not satisfied with the application and loan disbursement process for any reason. In addition, they will beat any other rate that you find from a qualifying lender (but conditions apply).

Marcus by Goldman Sachs

Marcus by Goldman Sachs is another enticing fee-free unsecured personal loan options of up to $40,000 for prospective borrowers with good credit. Loan proceeds can be used to consolidate debt, make home improvements, fund your dream vacation, cover the cost of a wedding, or pay for moving expenses, just to name a few.

The APR on their unsecured personal loan ranges from a low 6.99 percent to 24.99 percent, and you’ll have between 36 and 72 months to repay what you borrow. Should you decide to pay off the loan before the loan term expires, you won’t be assessed a prepayment penalty.

Best of all, you won’t ever have to worry about fees at all with Marcus by Goldman Sachs. New loans do not incur origination or disbursement fees. And in the event you miss the due date, you won’t be charged a late-payment fee, either. Instead, the lender will simply add interest to cover the additional days, and this amount will be payable at the end of the loan term.

Ready to get started? Simply complete the online form and you’ll be only your way to exploring all the benefits Marcus by Goldman Sachs hs to offer. It only takes five minutes to view your rates, and your credit score won’t be impacted. You can also call 1-844-627-2871 if you have additional questions or wish to apply for a loan by phone.

Upon approval, the loan proceeds will be deposited into your bank account between one and four business days. However, the disbursement period will be a bit lengthier for paper applications.

Prosper

Prosper is a peer-to-peer lender that’s been around for over 15 years. To date, they have served close to one million consumers. You may qualify for a loan between $2,000 and $40,000. Interest rates vary by your credit rating, but you can expect to receive a loan term of three or five years.

Personal loans from Prosper can be used in any way that you see fit. But in general, borrowers apply the loan proceeds to debts with high interest rates, wedding or vacation expenses, the cost of adoption, big-ticket purchases, and moving or relocation expenses.

You can get started with Prosper by completing the online application. Your credit score won’t be impacted, and you’ll receive real-time loan offers.

SoFi

SoFi also boasts fee-free personal loans ranging from $5,000 to $100,000. They cater to prospective borrowers with good credit and offer some of the lowest interest rates on the market when you enroll in the AutoPay program. You could qualify for a rate as low as 6.99 percent, but you’ll never pay more than 14.99 percent.

With regards to the fee-free structure, you’ll never pay any loan application, origination, or disbursement fees. Standard loan repayment terms are anywhere from three to seven years, with high APRs for longer periods. But if you wish to pay off the loan early, SoFi does not charge prepayment penalties.

Other SoFi benefits available to borrowers include:

  • Unemployment protection if you are separated from your employer
  • Job search assistance from the Career Advisory Group to expedite the process and quickly get you back to work

You can get pre-qualified with SoFi by completing a brief questionnaire online. There is no impact to your credit score for doing so. And if you’re matched with an offer, simply submit the requested documentation and upon final approval, the loan proceeds will be deposited into your bank account. The entire process, from start to finish, should only take a few business days.

Upgrade

Upgrade is a unique online platform that offers personal loans that are affordable to borrowers. They were founded in 2016 and are committed to helping customers navigate the credit maze so they can make well-informed and responsible lending decisions.

You can apply for a loan between $1,000 to $50,000 to be used for debt consolidation, to pay off credit cards, fund a business, make home improvements, or cover a large purchase. If there’s something else that isn’t on this list, you can use the proceeds for that as well.

You will repay interest anywhere from 6.99 to 35.97 percent APR over the life of the loan. And you’ll have either 36 or 60 months to pay the loan in full. As a customer, you will also have access to tools to help you improve your credit health so you qualify for the best possible financing terms on subsequent loan products.

To check your rate, enter the desired loan amount and loan purpose into the boxes found on the website. You’ll be prompted to answer a few simple questions to determine what loan amount and terms you qualify for. There’s no impact to your credit score to do so, and you’ll only receive a hard inquiry should you decide to move forward with the loan application.

You can have the funds in your account in as little as one business day as long as you get the requested documentation to the loan officer in a jiffy.

Upstart

While Upstart offers competitive interest rates on personal loans to borrowers with good credit, they know that you are more than just a credit score. So, they evaluate other factors, like your income, educational background, and employment history to determine if you qualify and the specifics of your loan offer.

Their loan amounts range from $1,000 to $50,000 and can be used in any way that you wish. However, most borrowers take out personal loans from Upstart to pay down or consolidate debt, cover unexpected medical expenses, pay for moving costs, make home improvements, and take care of wedding and vacation expenses.

Your interest rate will be anywhere from 7.98 to 35.99 percent, and you’ll have three or five years to pay back the loan. To check your rate, fill out the form found online. Doing so will not impact your credit score and should you decide to move forward, the loan can be funded in as little as one business day.

Quick note: you can also use loan proceeds to cover the cost of higher education, but a three-day waiting period applies to the disbursement of funds.

The Bottom Line

You’ve worked hard to earn a good credit rating, so use it to your advantage to score a great deal on a personal loan. And by doing your homework and working with the right lender, you’ll be sure to save a bundle in interest.

Best Online Personal Loans (The 2019 Edition)

With so many online lenders to choose from, you could easily become overwhelmed when shopping for a loan. So, we’ve done the legwork for you by exploring scores of lenders to compile a list of the best online personal loans in the marketplace.

Avant

Avant has helped over 600,00 consumers get access to cash when they needed it most. Loans are underwritten and issued by WebBank, and are between $2,000 and $35,000 with loan terms from 24 to 60 months. You can also expect to receive an APR between 9.95 and 35.99 percent.

As a borrower, you’ll be privy to the following benefits:

  • Flexible loan use as the way in which the loan proceeds are to be used isn’t dictated by the lender.
  • Access to customer service representatives seven days a week.
  • The ability to pay off your loan early without incurring a prepayment fee.

You can explore loan options by visiting their website and completing the online form. Be prepared to provide your name, address, Social security number, and answer questions about your income. If pre-qualified, you’ll be able to view the terms of your offer directly from the dashboard. Even better, there’s no impact to your credit score since it’ll only be a soft pull to your credit.

Upon approval, you’ll need to provide identification and income documentation to substantiate the claims made in the application. The loan officer will reach out to let you know which documents they need, and they can be uploaded to your account directly from the website. And once the documents have been reviewed and processed, you can expect to receive funds in your bank account in as little as one business day.

Best Egg

Best Egg also offers personal loans that can be funded in as little as one business day. Accredited and rated A+ by the Better Business Bureau (BBB), they have a streamlined application that makes it easy to get approved in a jiffy and have funded over $6b in loans for more than 450,000 customers.

You may be eligible for anywhere between $2,000 and $35,000 in loan proceeds with an APR between 5.99 and 29.99 percent. A small loan origination fee between 0.99 and 5.99 percent also applies.

Loan proceeds can be used to fund a variety of financial expenses ranging from debt consolidation, home improvement, and moving expenses, to adoption-related expenses and vacations, just to name a few.

To apply for a personal loan from Best Egg, simply complete the online application found on their website. If you are approved, income documentation can be uploaded directly from the dashboard so you can receive the funds you need in a jiffy.

You also have the option to check the terms of your loan offer with no impact to your credit score if you’re still unsure. It only takes a few minutes of your time, and you’ll quickly be able to review your results.

FreedomPlus

FreedomPlus is another leading online lender that can get you the funds you need within 48 hours. Headquartered in Arizona, they offer personal loans with competitive rates to borrowers with excellent credit along with those who’ve had some past financial missteps and are working to rebuild their credit rating.

Loan amounts range from $7,500 to $40,000 with APRs between 4.99 and 29.99 percent. There are no restrictions on how the funds can be used, which means you can use the proceeds to eliminate debt, make improvements to your home, fund your dream wedding, or pay for an upcoming trip abroad.

Furthermore, you have the option to select the day on which your payment will be due each month. And you’ll have between two and five years to pay off the outstanding balance with no prepayment penalties should you decide to pay off the loan early.

All you have to do is apply using the simple application found online to receive a customized loan offer if you meet the qualification criteria. You can also call 1-800-368-0061 to speak with a loan representative that will walk you through the process. Either way, you’ll receive a lending decision the same day. And should you decide to accept the loan offer, an origination fee of up to five percent will be applied to the loan amount.

Lending Club

Wouldn’t it be nice to explore several loan options at the tap of a fingertip? Well, look no further than LendingClub, a peer to peer lending network that can connect you with a lender that will grant you a personal loan of up to $40,000.

Loan proceeds can be used to consolidate credit card or any other type of debt, cover home improvements, pay for a big-ticket purchase, or take care of any other unexpected expense. You can explore loan options in a jiffy by answering a few questions via their online form, and your credit score won’t be impacted. Partners in the LendingClub network offer loan terms of 36 or 60 months, but the interest rate you’ll receive will be determined by your financial background, desired loan term, and credit rating.

If you qualify for a loan, the next step is to select the loan offer that works best for you and upload any supporting documentation requested by the lender directly to the dashboard. Once the loan is finalized, the funds will be deposited into your bank account within 7 days, minus the origination fee which is between one and six percent.

You’ll repay the lender for the duration of the loan term via your bank account. And there are no prepayment penalties will apply if you decide to pay the loan off early.

LightStream

Operating as a subsidiary of SunTrust Bank, LightStream offers some of the most competitive rates on the market for personal loans. Their loans are catered towards consumers with good or excellent credit and can be used to cover a variety of expenses, including those related to an automobile purchase, home improvement project, recreational vehicle, travel, medical expenses, or any other big-ticket purchase.

Loan amounts span from $5,000 to $100,000 with terms between 24 and 144 months. You can expect to receive an APR between 3.34 and 16.99, depending on your credit rating and intended use of the loan. (Quick note: if you do not enroll in the AutoPay option, your loan’s APR will be 0.50 points higher).

Unlike most personal loan products on the market, no origination fee applies. Furthermore, you won’t be hit with a prepayment penalty if you pay off the loan ahead of schedule. Another major perk is their “best loan experience guarantee,” which will grant you $100 within 30 days if you’re not completely satisfied with your loan experience.

You can explore loan terms using the online simulator to determine if what they’re offering could possibly fit your needs. Once you’re ready to apply, submit the online form and upload any necessary identifying and income documentation. Upon final approval, you could receive the loan proceeds in your bank account the same day.

And in the event you find a lender that will offer you a more competitive interest rate, LightStream will lower your APR by .10 percentage points if you meet select criteria, thanks to the Rate Beat Program.

Marcus by Goldman Sachs

Marcus by Goldman Sachs is another enticing loan option that allows borrowers to secure some of the lowest rates on the market without paying fees. This means you won’t pay loan origination, prepayment or late fees.

You may be eligible for up to $40,000, and APRs start at 6.99 percent. Loans can be used to consolidate debt or cover home improvement, wedding, moving, or vacation costs.

When analyzing your loan application, the lender will evaluate your creditworthiness, income, and intended use for the loan proceeds to determine how much you qualify for. (Quick note: the lower APRs are reserved for applicants with stellar credit ratings seeking shorter loan terms. You can also expect to pay a higher APR is you wish to repay over an extended period of time).

To explore what loan options may be available to you through Marcus, by Goldman Sachs, simply complete the online form. It’ll only take a few minutes, and there is no impact on your credit score. But be prepared to input your desired loan amount, monthly payment, the reason for the loan, and income information. You can also call 1-844-MARCUS1 to get started if you’d prefer to speak to a loan officer.

Payoff

Loans from Payoff are intended for one specific use: to eliminate credit card debt. You may elect to borrow between $5,000 and $35,000 for a loan term from two to five years. Even better, they offer fixed interest rates as low as 5.65 percent.

A loan origination fee of up to five percent may apply, but you’ll never pay any fees associated with late payments, check processing, returned checks or early payoffs.

To qualify for a Payoff loan, you should have:

  • A FICO score of at least 640
  • A debt-to-income ratio that’s 50 percent or lower
  • At least three years of positive credit history
  • Two trade lines in good standing
  • No more than one installment loan initiated within the past 12 months
  • No delinquent accounts on your credit report
  • No past due accounts
  • No accounts that have reached a past due status of 90 days or more within the past 12 months

When you check your rate, Payoff will only conduct a soft pull. So, your credit score won’t be impacted. You should also know that Payoff customers have increased their FICO Score by up to 40 points by using the loan proceeds to pay off credit card debt. And you’ll have access to a monthly update of your FICO Score, free of charge, so you’ll be able to see your progress in real-time.

Prosper

Established in 2005, Prosper was a pioneer in the peer-to-peer lending industry. Prosper has helped over 869,000 consumers borrow the funds they need to pay down debt, make that big-ticket purchase, or cover life’s unexpected expenses.

They offer loans from $2,000 to $40,000 with 3 and 5-year terms. Interest rates vary by creditworthiness and your financial background, as determined by your Prosper Rating. There are no prepayment penalties, and you can check your rate online without impacting your credit score.

SoFi

SoFi takes customer service to the next level with the perks that accompany their personal loan products. Not only do they have customer service representatives standing by to assist you seven days a week with your loan needs, but they also offer unemployment protection in the event you lose your job. Even better, they’ll connect you with their Career Advisory Group to help you find a new job so you’ll back on your feet in record time.

You can also rest assured that you’ll never pay any fees when you take out a loan from SoFi. So, there are no loan origination fees when the loan proceeds are disbursed and you won’t have to pay a prepayment penalty should you decide to pay the loan off early. Best of all, you won’t incur late fees if you miss a payment.

They offer fixed rate loans between $5,000 and $100,000. You can also expect an APR from 6.99 to 14.99 percent when you enroll in AutoPay, and you’ll have between three and seven years to repay what you owe.

To get started with the loan application process, complete the online form. Your credit score won’t be impacted, and there’s no pressure to move forward with a loan offer if the terms don’t work for you.

Upstart

When you apply for a personal loan with Upstart, they look beyond your FICO score to gauge your creditworthiness. They have helped over 140,000 access the cash they need, and you, too, can apply for consideration for with no impact to your credit score.

Upstart offers loans between $1,000 and $50,000, and the funds can be used to consolidate debt and cover expensive medical procedures. Borrowers also use funds to pay for weddings, moving expenses, and home improvement projects.

You should also expect to receive an interest rate between 7.98 and 35.99, depending on your unique financial situation and credit history. And you’ll have three or five years to repay what you owe without incurring a prepayment penalty if you pay back the loan before the term lapses.

Even better, you can receive loan proceeds directly to your bank account within one business day. However, a three-day window applies if you intend to use the funds to cover educational expenses.

Are Online Lenders the Best Option?

While you always have the option to take out a personal loan with a brick and mortar financial institution, online lenders may be worth a shot. For starters, you are afforded the opportunity to conveniently explore several lenders and loan options in a flash without leaving the comforts of your home.

Furthermore, the entire process can be handled electronically. Simply complete the online application, upload any supporting documentation the lender requests, and receive the loan proceeds directly to your bank account. And some lenders even offer you the luxury of viewing pre-qualified offers with no impact to your credit score.

Plus, some online lenders go the extra mile by offering you monthly credit score updates and tools to help you improve your financial situation. This means you’ll have even more resources to help you reach your financial goals faster.

The Bottom Line

By doing business with an online lender, you’ll receive loan offers almost instantly and you won’t have to wait several days or weeks to get the cash you need. But be sure to only entertain offers from reputable lenders to protect your hard-earned cash and credit rating.

Best Private Student Loans (The 2019 Edition)

Higher education costs are rapidly on the rise, so it’s no surprise that you need assistance funding your tuition and other related expenses. Federal loans may be an option, but some private lenders also offer student loan products with great perks. Read on for the best private student loans on the market.

Best Private Student Loans for 2018

Ascent

Ascent offers two options to help student fund their higher education expenses:

  • Cosigned Loan: designed for college students who have a part-time load or greater and a co-signer willing to back the loan for them. It’s also ideal for students who are not U.S. citizens or are designated as permanent residents as they can still qualify with a cosigner who is a resident. Payment terms are 5, 10, or 15 years, and interest-only repayment is permitted while you are enrolled in school.
  • Independent Loan: designed for full-time college Juniors, Seniors, or Graduate students. To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and maintain a GPA of at least 2.5. Payment terms are 10 and 15 years, and you won’t have to start repaying your loan until coursework is complete.

But what makes them really stand out among the other private lenders is the one-percent cash back incentive that they offer if you graduate and meet certain criteria. Furthermore, their APRs for both fixed and variable loan products are some of the lowest in the industry for those who are well-qualified borrowers (or have a stellar credit history).

The cosigned loan is accompanied by variable and fixed APRs ranging between 4.06 and 13.06 percent and 5.66 and 14.73 percent, respectively. On the other hand, the independent loan’s variable and fixed APRs are between 5.72 and 13.01 percent and 7.20 and 13.90 percent, respectively.

Ascent also offers a 0.25 percent f you enroll in automatic ACH payments. You can use their online tool to determine if you’re eligible to apply for a loan. It only takes a few minutes of your time and you’ll receive a real-time response.

Citizens Bank

Citizens Bank has two loan options to choose from:

  • Student Loan: caters to students with, but a co-signer may be required.
  • Student Loan for Parents: caters to parents wishing to assist their students with higher education expenses. You may also choose this option if you have stellar credit and do not require a cosigner to qualify.

Another key benefit of Citizens Bank private student loan products is the multi-year approval feature. In a nutshell, it allows borrowers to request for more funding as needed without jumping through more hoops. This means that you don’t have to submit a different application or supporting documentation each year that you wish to take out a loan.

To qualify for a student loan from Citizens Bank, you must be a full-time undergraduate or graduate student with at least one year left until you’re eligible for graduation. You must also be a citizen of the US or a permanent resident.

College Ave.

College Ave’s student loan products include:

  • Undergraduate loans: can be used to cover all qualifying college expenses, including tuition, books, fees, and housing. Variable and fixed interest rates range between 3.94 and 11.19 percent and 5.29 and 12.78 percent, respectively.
  • Graduate loans: can be sued to cover expenses related to postgraduate, masters, doctoral studies. Expenses incurred in relation to professional degree studies are also eligible for coverage under the graduate loan program. Variable and fixed interest rates range between 3.94 and 9.25 percent, and 5.29 and 10.45 percent, respectively.

Parent loans and career loans are also available to help offset the cost of higher education.

They also offer a scholarship program for borrowers that allows you to win up to $1,000 to be allocated towards your higher education expenses. An award is disbursed each month, and it only takes a few seconds to enter.

You can apply in as little as three minutes and know right away which loan product, along with specific terms, you qualify for. Loans can also be tailored to meet your budgetary needs.

CommonBond

CommonBond offers competitive student loans to undergraduate borrowers. You’ll have 5, 10, or 15 years to repay the loan, and there are fixed and variable rate options available.

The interest rates are as follows:

  • Fixed loans: 5.3 to 9.82 percent APR
  • Variable loans: 3.96 to 9.83 percent APR

To qualify, you must meet select income and credit criteria. You have the option to bring a cosigner on board to strengthen your approval odds, and they can be released from the loan if you make two years of consecutive on-time payments.

CommonBond offers forbearance for up to 12 months if you encounter financial difficulties during the repayment period. And should you decide to pay your loan off early, you can rest assured that you won’t be hit with prepayment penalties.

When you take out a loan from CommonBond, you will also help fund Pencils of Promise, which is a charitable initiative that helps cover educational expenses for underprivileged school-aged children in Ghana.

Discover

Known for its stellar credit card products, Discover also offers student loans to undergraduate and graduate students. Interest rates range between 3.99 and 13.99, depending on the loan type and accompanying repayment term. As a borrower, you can choose from:

  • Undergraduate loans
  • Graduate loans
  • MBA loans
  • Health professions student loans
  • Law student loans
  • Residency student loans
  • Bar exam student loans
  • Debt consolidation student loans

Their loans include several perks, including:

  • One-percent cash reward with a GPA of 3.0 or better
  • Repayment discount when enrolling in autopay
  • The ability to choose between in-school or deferred repayment

You can apply directly from the website or by calling 1-800-STUDENT. And if you qualify for and decide to accept the loan offer presented to you, there are no application or origination fees.

Sallie Mae

When you take out a student loan from Sallie Mae, you’ll enjoy all the perks that the Smart Option Student Loan has to offer, including:

  • Three flexible repayment options
  • Zero origination fees
  • No early prepayment penalties
  • A deferred payment option which halts repayment until you complete your studies

You can choose from variable and fixed interest rate loan products with APRs ranging from 4.37 to 11.23 percent and 5.74 to 11.85 percent, respectively. They also offer specialized graduate loans for MBA, medical, dental, health, professional, graduate, and law school students. Sallie Mae also offers parent loans for those wishing to assist to cover the costs of attendance for the children.

To move forward with the loan application, visit their website or call 1-877-279-7172. Upon completion, you should receive an instant decision.

SoFi

SoFi boasts some of the lowest rates in the private student lending industry. APRs on fixed and variable rate loans start at 3.899 and 2.4790 percent, respectively, when you enroll in Autopay. They have served thousands of borrowers and loaned well over $30 billion.

You can explore your loan options with SoFi using the online tools. It only takes a few minutes and there is no impact on your credit score.

SunTrust

With the Custom Choice student loan from SunTrust, you can tailor a loan product that meets your budgetary needs while saving a bundle on interest. They offer fixed and variable APR loans, ranging from 5.347 to 14.050 percent and 4.122 to 13.125 percent, respectively.

Other accountholder perks include:

  • The option to defer loan payments while enrolled in school
  • A principal reduction of 2 percent upon completion of your degree program
  • A 0.25 percent discount when you enroll in autopay
  • An additional 0.25 percent discount when you enroll in autopay from a qualifying SunTrust account

It only takes a few minutes to apply and you’ll receive an instant decision. Upon approval, you can rest assured that you won’t incur any loan origination fees. Even better, prepayment penalties do not apply if you decide to pay off the loan early.

How to Evaluate Private Student Loan Options

Ready to start applying for private student loans. Before you go any further, here are some questions to ponder:

  • Is the lender reputable? There are shady lenders that will promise you one thing, and give you another, either in the form of ridiculous payment terms, fees or a monthly payment you can’t afford. Even worse, you could end up dealing with a con artist disguised as a student lender if you don’t do your homework. A better option: dig a bit deeper to learn more about the lender’s background. Take a look at their status with the Better Business Burea (BBB), and it also doesn’t hurt to read reviews to see what others are saying. If all the reviews are negative or sound too good to be true, they probably are and that’s your queue to move on to other options.
  • Does the lender require that you meet minimum income and credit score requirements? If you don’t qualify, are they willing to work with you, and are you allowed to bring a cosigner on board?
  • Does the lender offer any enticing perks to borrowers? Some will automatically grant you a reduction in interest if you enroll in auto pay. Other benefits include the ability to defer the loans or request forbearance if you encounter financial hardships during the repayment period?
  • Are loan payments deferred while you’re enrolled in school? If so, does interest still accrue?
  • Does the lender charge application or loan origination fees? Will you incur a prepayment penalty if you decide to pay the loan off early?
  • Does the lender offer flexible loan options? Are you allowed to tailor your monthly payment and repayment term to fit your budget?
  • Is the APR comparable to what’s being offered by other private lenders in the industry?

Should You Borrow From a Private Lender?

Wondering if a private student loan is right for you? It’s not a bad idea to shop around as not all private lenders are created equal.

But first, it’s best to exhaust your federal options. Why so? For starters, they generally have more competitive interest rates than what you’d find with private student loans. Furthermore, they offer great perks to borrowers, like the income-based repayment programs, forbearance, and deferment (as needed, student loan forgiveness, and loan cancellation, just to name a few. You may also qualify for free grants or the federal work-study program which allows you to earn money through an on-campus position designed specifically for students.

To determine if you qualify for federal loans, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at fafsa.gov. The income data input into this form will be analyzed to determine how much unmet financial need you have to fund your higher education. Colleges and universities will then use this information to compile federal loan offers (assuming you haven’t exhausted the aggregate federal loan limit).

No luck? Try local community banks and credit unions when you begin your search for private lenders as they tend to have more flexible qualification criteria. Online lenders may also be a good fit, and some allow you to determine if you qualify for a loan and with what terms with no impact to your credit score

The Bottom Line

Before you borrow from a private lender, be sure to explore all your federal options. And if you have to go the private route, obtain several quotes to ensure you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck.

How to Buy Stocks

Have you been wondering how to buy stocks and don’t know where to start? You’ve come to the right place. But there’s good news and bad news. Bad news first: with so many options to choose from, it’s easy to make the wrong move and lose out on your hard-earned cash. Good news: by following the instructions provided in this guide, you’ll be in the best position to buy a stock that will make your money work for you.

Read on to learn how to buy stock the right way.

Open a Brokerage Account

Before you initiate your first purchase, it’s a must that you open a brokerage account. Why so? Well, you’ll need to execute orders and hold your stock. But not all brokerage accounts are created equal.

Some require a higher minimum deposit, which may not be ideal if you’re new to the trading game and would like to get acclimated slowly by only investing a small amount. Therefore, you’d want to go with a brokerage account with low fees and commissions.

But if you’re wanting to derive the greatest return on your money sooner than later, a more expensive brokerage account option may be the best fit.

Brokerage Account Options

Below is an overview of the different types of brokerage accounts:

  • Full-Service Brokerage Account- ideal for investors who need thorough guidance on stock trading transactions, and are accompanied by a fee in the form of a flat fee or commission.
  • Discount Brokerage Account- ideal for seasoned investors, newbies on a tight budget, or those who wish to handle their own stock trading transactions, but may need support on occasion. The flat-fee or commission is generally lower than what you’d find with a full-service brokerage account because the support provided is minimal.

Analyze the Various Types of Stocks

All set with the brokerage account? The next step is to choose the stocks you want to buy. But it’s not as cut and dry and choosing what some stockbroker you saw on television said was the best fit.

Instead, brainstorm a list of companies in industries that pique your interest. You can also add companies from some of the most lucrative fields, like tech, if you’re looking to maximize your dollar in the short-term. Another option: ask around for recommendations, and don’t be afraid to call up your financial adviser and allow them to weigh in.

Upon compiling the list, do a bit more digging to get a feel of the company’s overall performance over time, but pay attention to how they’ve done as of late. Look for trends so you can make an educated guess regarding how the stock will perform in the near future should you decide to invest. The firm under which your brokerage account is housed should also be able to provide you with information to help analyze stock performance, and may even have more detailed information about the company’s you’re considering.

You should also retrieve a company’s annual reports to analyze financial trends and overall company performance in the past year. They can usually be found online.

Obtain a Stock Quote

The stock quote, which is identifiable by the ticker symbol, contains key components related to pricing on an exchange and can be obtained from the broker you are doing business with. You can also visit Nasdaq.com to get stock quotes.

They include:

  • Ask Price (or Offer Price): the lowest price a seller will accept per share
  • Bid Price: the maximum price a buyer will pay per share
  • Information on the volume at which the stock has traded in the past
  • Projected performance based on simulations

Place a Stock Order

Before you place a stock order, you need to know how many shares you want to purchases. You should also be aware of the three types of stock orders to choose from:

Stock Order Options

  • Market Order: guarantees you are able to obtain the number of shares you wish to purchase. Usually executed first.
  • Limit Order: guarantees you are able to obtain shares at the price you wish to pay
  • Stop Order: can only be executed when the number of shares an investor requests reaches the stop price. Stop-loss orders guarantee the entire order is executed when the price reaches desired “stop level”. Stop-limit orders guarantee the order is executed when the price reaches the desired “stop level”, but the entire order may be not filled.

The Bottom Line

By following these instructions, you’ll find that it’s not too difficult to buy your first stock. Even better, you’ll start to accumulate wealth by making investments in the right companies, which can drastically boost your nest egg.

Should I File Bankruptcy?

Has your financial situation got so out of hand that bankruptcy seems like the only plausible solution? But before you file bankruptcy through the court system, it’s best to take a step back and assess your situation to determine if this is the best course of action. You should also understand your options and seek professional guidance before moving forward.

How Bad Is Your Financial Situation?

When the debt collectors are calling, your credit rating is tanking, and you’re tossing and turning every night thinking about how you’re going to get out of the debt hole, you may be inclined to do whatever it takes to find relief quick, fast, and in a hurry. But is your situation really that bad that it warrants a bankruptcy filing?

Some questions to ponder:

  • Do you rely on credit cards to survive?
  • Are you working several jobs to afford the minimum payments on your debts?
  • Can you only afford to make the monthly minimum payments on your credit cards?
  • Do you struggle to make the minimum payments on your credit cards because of penalty APRs, which have caused the balances to skyrocket even more?
  • Have you cashed out your retirement fund to pay down debts but are still struggling to stay afloat?
  • Are you wages being garnished to satisfy judgments?
  • Have you drastically minimized your lifestyle to survive, but the debt payments are still too excessive?
  • Are you avoiding debt collectors because you’re overwhelmed and don’t have the funds to pay them?
  • Are you too embarrassed to review your billing statements to determine how much you actually owe?
  • Is your debt load causing your stress levels to increase and impacting your everyday functionality?

The Case for Bankruptcy

While your credit will take a hit when filing for bankruptcy, there are several reasons why this option may be the best course of action for your financial situation.

Could prevent further damage to your credit score.

Most financial experts stress the long-lasting impact bankruptcy will have on your credit profile, particularly the fact that it will linger on your credit report for 10 years. And you will also see your credit score dip once the negative data hits your credit report. But what they don’t mention is the fact that your credit score is more than likely already mangled before your file bankruptcy as a result of late payments, new collection accounts, and charge-offs. So, filing for bankruptcy will, in essence, give you a clean slate and cause the madness to stop. Consequently, you will see your score start to improve (assuming you refrain from any additional debt mismanagement).

Halts collection efforts.

This means that you won’t have to walk around each day with a pit in your stomach in or sweat bullets each time a debt collector calls. When you file bankruptcy, debt collectors can no longer call and pester you about debts you know you can’t afford to pay. Even better, they won’t be able to drag you to court or seek a judgment against you which could possibly lead to wage garnishment.

Gives you peace of mind.

Your mental health is beyond important. And if a high debt loan and constant financial stress are taking you over the edge, chances are your performance at work is plummeting or you find yourself having a difficult time making it through the day. In this case, filing for bankruptcy can help mend your fragile mental state so you can embrace life and focus on what matters most because you are defined by more than your debt load or credit score.

What Are Your Options?

Not all bankruptcy filings are created equal. Here’s what you need to know about each before you file bankruptcy:

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Also known as liquidation, Chapter 7 bankruptcy will take your debts off your plate so you no longer owe creditors. But in order for your debts to be discharged, your assets will be liquidated or sold to repay your creditors (even if they only receive a fraction of what you actually owe). Consequently, a major downside is that despite having a clean slate, you may not get to retain assets that you wish to keep in your possession.

According to Alllaw.com, the following debts are dischargeable under Chapter 7 Bankruptcy:

  • Credit card debt
  • Government benefit overpayments
  • Medical bills
  • Personal loans
  • Qualifying tax debts
  • Secured debts associated with a surrendered property
  • Select monetary judgments
  • Unpaid rent obligations
  • Utility bills

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

When you file Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you are agreeing to what’s called “reorganization” which means you’ll repay your debts over the next three to five years. While your debts won’t be completely discharged, you’ll be able to retain possession of your assets. And once the repayment period is up, the remaining amounts that you owe will be discharged. This form of bankruptcy may be the best option if you prefer to keep your assets and have a steady source of income to make monthly payments.

According to Alllaw.com, the following debts qualify for cancellation under Chapter 13 Bankruptcy:

  • Credit card debt
  • Debts associated with property damage that resulted from willful or malicious intent
  • Debts associated with nondischargeable tax debt
  • Debts associated with property settlement agreements arising from legal separation or divorce
  • Debts associated with a prior bankruptcy filing that was not approved for discharge
  • HOA or condo fees accrued after the filing date
  • Medical bills
  • Personal loans
  • Qualifying tax debts
  • Retirement account loans
  • Select government fines (excludes penalties derived from criminal activity)
  • Utility bills
  • Select monetary judgments

Is Bankruptcy the Best Choice?

Again, it depends on your financial situation. In other words, there are no one-size fits all answers. But if your debt is getting the best of you, financially and emotionally, or if you’re struggling to make basic ends meet, it may be time to take a hard look at your options and possibly consult a bankruptcy attorney to determine if filing could grant you the relief you need.